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The two most popular Christmas trees sold in the eastern part of the United States are Balsam Fir and Fraser Fir. Other trees used would include cedar, pine, douglas, fir, concolor fir, spruce and other variations of the same, but Balsam and Fraser are the tree of choice by many growers in Vermont. Both these species grow well in Vermont’s growing conditions. (Note problems under site selection).
Balsam and Fraser serve their best purpose growing at high altitudes and should not be grown outside their native habitats. These species thrive in the cool moist atmosphere of the mountains but when grown in areas where the summers are hot and dry, they are not long lived and become spindly and sickly in appearance.
When choosing a site for creating a Christmas Tree Farm a great deal of care should be taken to make sure you have as many of the ingredients as you can that will make the trees grow well. Thinking elevation is the key is not the total answer. The following would be my list of important factors with reasons why.
No magic number but a 1000ft to 2500ft would be good for places such as Vermont. Too high of an elevation stunts growth and too low may not have the air flow needed to keep late frosts from injuring a tree's new growth, (i.e. frost pockets). North Carolina grows at higher elevations.
Trees like plenty of moisture but do not like wet feet. The site must have a history of low water tables. If the site is dry the year you plant only to be wet in other years, the trees will either die out, lack growth and color...then be unsellable.
Well drained and having a texture that holds some moisture and suspends additives. Fir trees are not too fussy but do not do well in clay or sandy soils.
Full sun is necessary. A field may be in full sun but have shady sides. Best to leave extra service space along the shadier side.
It's important not only to hedge against late frosts but helps against fungus, and often keeps some of those pesky insects moving. (A friend said he has no insects on his farm because the winds blow them all to NH.)
Mother nature's mulch is necessary especially on new plantings. Areas known to have light or no snow cover during certain years will cause problems.
There are other considerations such as soil pH, other nutrients, deer and moose populations, vandalism, road dust, thievery, water source, road access to name a few.
Delving into all the above can become quite technical. A quick rule of thumb is to look at the surrounding area and see if balsam are growing naturally. If they are not then chances are good that the site is not located in what I call a “Fir Belt” and probably will not produce Fir trees easily, or some years might be okay and some not so good.
So if you own land and want to try growing trees keep the above in mind and realize you could experience a few difficulties if some of the mentioned factors are a problem. If you go looking for a site it would be best to keep those factors front and center and don’t stop looking until most of the criteria is met, (no sense in rowing upstream if you don’t have to)!
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**Disclaimer- It needs to be clearly understood that my consulting expertise is derived entirely from my love and time invested in the industry and not by a degree in Horticulture or Forestry, but rather in Marketing.