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Care of Stock on Arrival
Check your trees upon arrival. Open the package and add a little water to the roots; keep the foliage as dry as possible. Reclose the package and store in a cool place; keep it away from the sun and wind. If you are not able to plant your trees within 5 days, remove the plants from the package. Arrange them in a circle with the roots facing the center. Make sure the roots are kept cool and moist.
Varieties and Sizes to Plant
Scotch Pine, White Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir and Colorado Blue Spruce are currently the most popular Christmas Tree varieties. Austrian Pine, White Spruce, Norway Spruce and Balsam Fir are also included in many plantations. It is a good idea to grow a few different varieties, as it gives your customers a greater choice.
Pines are generally planted in ground of low to medium fertility. The more fertile ground is reserved for Spruce and Fir. Two- or three-year seedlings are very sufficient size for field planting of Pines. Growers of Spruce or Fir should use 3-year seedlings or transplants.
When and How to Plant
From past experience we have learned that early Spring is the best time to plant. As soon as the frost leaves the ground and danger of any other heavy freezes are past, one may begin planting. This period is usually around the first of April, with yearly and local variations. The following is a chart with distances and the number of trees required per acre.
5 x 6 feet = 1,452 trees per acre
6 x 6 feet = 1,210 trees per acre
The 5 x 6 spacing will produce premium grade Spruce and Fir. The 6 x 6 spacing provides ample sunlight for the production of top quality Pines.
On small or hilly plantings, hand planting will work best. To make your rows straight, space stakes at intervals. Each planter uses a bucket with the roots of the trees covered with muddy water or a moisture retaining gel. The holes are opened with a mattock or a tree planting bar. The holes must be deep enough to accommodate the entire root system. One person can hand plant 800 - 1,000 trees per day.
On large plantings, where the site is suitable, the use of a planting machine is much faster and more economical. A crew of 3 or 4 men can plant 8,000 to 10,000 trees per day. Planting machines can be contracted to do all the work for about $100.00 per thousand trees. The contractor should be contracted sometime in advance to assure you of getting your trees planted when you want.
Care of Your Trees
Good weed control is important for a number of reasons: it provides more sunlight, nutrients and moisture for the trees, less disease and insect problems, better rodent control. It also makes shearing, spraying and harvesting trees easier and more efficient. Some growers rely solely on mowing. Others use a combination of chemical weed control and mowing. You may call us for specific suggestions. In case of insect or disease damage, contact your local county or extension university office. They will be able to tell you what insect you have and control measures.
Shearing or Pruning
Shearing develops a full, well-shaped tree that brings a premium price. During the first 2 or 3 years after planting, shearing should be limited to removing multiple leaders, training a new leader from a strong lateral, or shearing a lateral branch that is abnormally long. Heavy early shearing makes trees too dense and increases production costs.
Shearing is started when the new growth is complete, but before this tender growth turns tough and woody. In Pennsylvania this time is about June 10 to July 15 for Pines, Spruce and Fir may be sheared from July 20 to April 1.
Hedge shears or shearing knives are most commonly used. One must first keep in mind to trim the trees in the shape of a cone, starting at the top. Shear only the new growth unless some radical change is needed. The top or terminal shoot is first cut back to 10-12", at a 45 degree angle. This will make the tree less likely to become double topped. The laterals of the terminal shoot are cut about 2-3 inches shorter than the terminal. The rest of the tree is sheared keeping in mind the cone shape. Treat each tree as an individual; you can contact your county agent as to time and place of shearing demonstrations.