A practical approach to all aspects of growing, marketing and retail sales

      Northeast Kingdom Christmas Trees



Spring chores

There is life after Christmas! Tree farms look quiet during the winter. Some work can be done but for the most part after the rigors of the annual tree harvest and retailing is over the farmer, like his trees, gets a rest. But then as the days start to get longer and warmer and the snows become “sugaring snow” each farmer starts to remember that he has some serious responsibilities out there in the fields. The idea that you just stick those trees in the ground, come back and cut them 7 years later is just not true. A Myth!

Planning out the spring chores starts the cycle all over again. The following is a list of the most important aspects of tree farming that need to be accomplished.

Spring clean up
Usually there are some cuttings lying around from last year’s harvest. It is not only unsightly and can get under foot but can harbor unwanted insects as it decays. This debris should be placed well away from the growing areas in a “stump dump” or taken to a safe area for burning. Do not burn near your planted trees!

Plant trees as soon as the soil is frost free and the transplants are available. The more new planting is established before the dry hot summer the better. This is also very important to areas that do not get a lot of snow cover because the more roots a tree has the better chance it has to survive a snowless winter.

Weed killing
Pre-emergence weed killers (simozine/atrozine) should be applied early and followed up with post emergence (glyphosphate) as some pesky weeds start to appear. Notes: A “Pesticide Applicator” license is required along with training for employees. Christmas trees must be on the label.

There is no great rush but should be completed 2 to 4 weeks before the new growth hardens off. Here in the Northeast Kingdom that would be about the 4th of July. Because it is one of the most technical aspects of tree farming, pages can be written on this subject. But to keep it simple a balanced formula like you use in your vegetable garden, 10-10-10, without weed killers, would be adequate and the most economical. Speaking of economics, care should be taken as to how much you give each tree. Fertilizers are petroleum based, so as gas prices go up so does the price of fertilizer. Because fertilizer can burn do not place on wet foliage, on the trunk or on new plantings.

Fir trees have two major insects to be attended to. Twig aphid and gall midge. Timing of each application is different. Twig aphids should be sprayed for just prior to bud break, while gall midge are treated when the new growth is out about 3". As a general rule Fraser fir do not suffer as much from these two insects. There are soil born insects also, but they are more of an exception and we do not treat with an annual preventive. Notes: Chemical used must include Christmas trees on the label, license requirements and workers training applies...

Any trees that were not sheared last year should be done in the spring prior to bud break. Basil brush, those limbs on the bottom 10” of the tree, should be removed on trees that are 3' to 4' in height. (They are like sucker shoots on a tomato plant…not needed and take energy from the rest of the tree). Also broken branches from winter snow should be removed where necessary.

Fungus problems
Not prevalent on Balsam and Fraser fir unless you plant on wet sites for which there is no cure.  Fir fern rust shows up some years on Balsam with the best cure being killing the sensitive fern that hosts the spores. Land clearing to plant trees has lasting effects because the roots remaining, especially from maples, may harbor fungus that can kill some trees years after planting…these are random and not usually widespread.

Other projects such as road and truck repairs need to be factored in. If you heat with wood, better be cutting and splitting in your spare moments.