When I was growing up, my family used the same artificial tree every Christmas season. The day after Thanksgiving each year, my dad would haul the duct-taped cardboard box out of storage and my sister, mother and I would pull out the tree, branch by branch. It generally took over an hour just to assemble the countless pieces of the tree and then attempt to fluff it up to look presentable.
It was an enjoyable tradition I shared with my family and looked forward to every year. We would load it up with an excessive amount of gaudy ornaments and lights, and surround it with poinsettias and other lovely Christmas flowers. After convincing my family to spring for our first "real" tree, I decided I wanted to actually grow a tree of my own. I began researching how to grow my own tree, and this Christmas— nine years later— I now grow trees for most of my family and friends. Here's how I got started and how you can take on the rewarding task of growing your own Christmas tree.
Deciding What Kind of Tree to Get
Evergreen trees are not too difficult to grow. Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce, Virginia Pine and Afghan Pine are the most common type to grow. Nurseries offer seedlings that are fairly cheap or you can get slightly older trees in pots. Make sure you give the tree enough time to grow so you can have it up in your living room not too long after Thanksgiving. You wouldn't want all your hard work to only be on display for a few days.
How Old Should I Buy a Tree?
In my opinion, growing a tree from a seedling is the most rewarding. However, it is slightly easier and does not take as long to grow from an older tree and might be better for beginners. Decide what you're willing to put into growing the tree and how long you want to wait to reap the benefits.
Preparing to Plant
Arguably the most important step, preparing a plot for the tree takes lots of care and planning ahead. When choosing the perfect spot for your tree to call home, make sure the soil is not too dense or clay-like. Remove anything that could compromise your tree's health and keep the soil in the area fine-textured and constantly moist. You should start preparing the plot about a year before planting. I personally like taking a little longer to mature the soil and I keep each plot at about 5' by 5'.
When to Plant
I like to plant my trees in November, right before it freezes and the ground gets too hard. Make sure the soil is packed tightly around the trunk to prevent air pockets. These can dry out and kill your seedling. For potted trees, plant them seven to 10 days after you bring them home. Other sources recommend planting in the Spring, but much of that depends on the climate you live in. I live in a mostly neutral climate, but evergreens can thrive in most temperatures and elements.
Caring for the Tree
After your tree is in the ground you want to acclimate it to its environment and help it grow strong and healthy. As I said before, it is imperative to keep the soil tightly packed and moist. Christmas trees do not like to be dry. Keep the area clear of weeds. If you desire, you can use a fertilizer to help your tree grow. I have a compost bin in my backyard and use the material to fertilize my trees (they love it!). You'll want to trim and shear the tree once or twice a year. Better Homes and Garden suggests further protection from wind or harsh conditions by adding a screen around your tree.