The most wonderful time of the year has arrived. But for garden-lovers, it can often come with frustration. We, the British, consume about 8 million trees annually, while in the United States 40 million trees are sold during the Christmas season. These trees are grown in nurseries, cut down, sold and then thrown away after three weeks.
To us, that sounds like a waste. Why limit yourself to less than a month of enjoyment from a tree, when you could watch it grow, enjoy it in your garden throughout its life stages and then get three magical weeks indoors?
Most modern Christmas trees are Norway spruces, but you can also use a Nordman fir or Colorado spruce. The average Norway spruce is around 5ft-6ft tall when harvested and sold for Christmas, but it’s Europe’s largest native tree and can reach up to 200ft tall ‘in the wild.’
How long does it take?
Most common Christmas tree varieties will reach the right height within 4 – 6 years. You can save yourself a lot of time by getting a seedling from a garden centre or a nursery, rather than trying to grow directly from seed. After the first year of growth, your tree won’t need much watering or care so put the time in to get to this stage.
Where can I grow my tree?
If you have a suitable spot in your garden, make sure you pH test the soil first. Some species do well in certain pH levels, such as Fraser firs, which grow best in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. Check the right level for your species. Secondly, make sure you’re planting and growing on a slope. Firs and spruces do not cope well in sodden conditions, so make sure you find (or create) at least a 5% slope. If you’re planting more than one tree, make sure you leave rows of eight feet.
How do I care for my tree?
Once your tree reaches a year, you’re almost off the hook. At that point, you only need to water in dry months and droughts and to keep the area weed and pest free.
Once it reaches two or three years old, it will need pruning in mid-summer. Take particular care to remove any aesthetic imperfections, this is a Christmas tree after all. Try not to overly prune for the year that you’ll harvest, you don’t want cuts and visible cuts highlighted by your fairly lights and tinsel.
When can I harvest my tree?
Essentially – once it reaches the height that you need. These species will generally reach 5ft-6ft within 4 – 6 years, at which point you can harvest as normal with a saw – preferably in late autumn when the tree has absorbed the maximum moisture. As soon as it’s cut, place the tree into a container of water to ensure the cut doesn’t reseal. This is crucial to maintaining a long life span, which you’ll need when harvesting the tree in late Autumn.
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