What Goes Into a Christmas Tree?

Growing Christmas trees is not as simple as planting a tree and coming back in nine years to cut it down. An evergreen that grows naturally does not adopt its characteristic shape until it is much too large to fit into most people's houses, and it would almost never achieve the density of a cultivated Christmas tree. There is much more to running a Christmas Tree Farm than takes place during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    In the spring, we begin by planting new trees. We buy in seedlings, generally 4-6 inches tall, from a wholesale nursery in Maine and plant them in our nursery beds where they will receive much more intensive care than in our fields. A tree will spend one to three summers in the nursery, and then when it is about 10-16 inches tall it will be transplanted into our fields. We plant new seedlings between 4-5' trees.  By planting between trees a few years away from being salable, we can make the most efficient use of our space, and the older trees will be cut before they can crowd the younger ones.

Fertilization also occurs during the spring, before the new buds open. A Christmas tree can survive without fertilizer, but its needles will often have a paler, more yellowish color and it will be much sparser than a fertilized tree. Weed control begins in the spring and extends into the fall. We accomplish this with a combination of mowing and spraying. This is especially important for the young transplants, which can easily become overgrown by tall grasses and other weeds.
    Beginning in the summer and extending right up to Thanksgiving, we shape, or shear, our trees. Each tree is hand-sheared each year of its life beginning when it is about three feet tall. The tops, which are particular formative of its future growth, and trimmed with

pruners. The rest of the tree is shaped with a shearing knife, which has a straight, thin blade about 1.5 to 2.5 feet long that is swung in a manner similar to a machete. While most other stages of raising a tree are relatively straight-forward, shearing this way is an art that takes years of practice to perfect.
A tree will begin to be sheared this way when it is two or three feet tall, and during this stage will grow about one foot per year.
    A typical 8-foot Christmas tree will be 10-16 years old, or 9-12 years for a Scotch Pine or a White Pine.