New Christmas Tree Farm Beginners Guide

Welcome to my Beginners Guide To Christmas Tree Farming. I am By no means an expert, I have learned a lot via Trail an error (failing) so I wanted to share my Experiences. I will add here as I learn more. And sections as I can.

For those that listen to Podcasts, I have a Christmas Tree farming Podcast as well. And a lot of these things were mentioned there.

I think knowing how well your soil drains is very important. Followed by PH level. If either are not really decent it would need to be amended to Atleast have a Chance at growing Fir trees. We are located in Central KY Zone 6b. If you are more southern than me it may not be possible to grow fir. However Soil Drainage and PH still need to be good for any species of tree you plan to grow. (We also grow Chestnuts)

Soil Drainage can be found by looking at Soil maps for your county Extension. Or using the Websoil survey website. Soil Drainage refers to Internal Soil Drainage, which does not necessarily match slope. This can only be amended with Drain Tile. How much depends on how bad your area is.

PH can be found by gathering a soil sample and getting tested. Here our county extension office provides this service for free. PH needs be close to the optimal PH range for the species you are growing. My soil here has a slightly high PH. Around 6.9-7.2 natively. So for Almost all Conifers fields we have to LOWER our PH. We use Elemental Sulfur to prep fields at least 1 year in advance. We also use ammonium Sulfate as our primary Nitrogen Fertilizer as it provides N as well as S which lowers PH. If your soil is Low PH. You may need to raise it. A lot of people use Lime.

My drainage here is So-So. Some areas are moderately well drained. And some areas are poorly drained. Everywhere poorly drained all my Fir Die. WITHOUT exception.

Areas where my PH is too high they are either highly effected by transplant shock or very sensitive to elements.  Ph issue causes them to not uptake nutrients in soil.  So again. Most places where my PH isn’t pretty close they Die.  Or look poor and won’t grow very well

Irrigation is important. I have some drip tape I use. But it becomes a lawnmower nightmare. I am gonna try overhead irrigation this year on my newly planted field. Using large PTO water pump and water Gun type sprinklers. Some people never irrigated and do great. I think where they live and how rich there soil is also plays a factor. We apply mulch also to help retain moisture. I have watered new fields in July with just a 100 gallon tank and water hose attached. For me I can water 100-200 trees in one evening. So not too hard. To water 500 a week in evening if you have too.

The type of tree you grow really depends on what will actaully grow where you are planting. I would attend christmas tree associations near you and see. Hopefully you hat you have is what will grow well.

Herbicides. I would say this really REALLY helps improve young transplant survive ability. Prep the field you plant a year in advance. Meaning. Pick the spot. Amend the soil. Kill off weeds. Sew ground cover. And in fall of year before spring come back subsoil rows. And glyphosate spray & pre-emergent herbicide spray. those rows. That following spring. You can till te rows or just plant into where it was subsoiled. After planting (prior to budbreak). Spray a good preemergent again. (Could mix glyphosate as well if you have grass or growing already. ). Mid summer. IF grass is high we Spray Clethodim (it does not effect our trees) if weeds are bad. Spot spray glyphosate without surfactant. either with backpack sprayer or a good spray rig where nozzles only hit ground. And have shields. As needed in summer. Spray that broad spectrum herbicide again. FALL. once trees have hardened off. For me after Labor Day. I spray Again Broad Spectrum and My Pre-emergent. I use Split application. So I cut the amount I need in half. And apply 10 days apart.

Pre-emergent info Coming soon….

Fertilizer Don’t fertilize first year at all. Use whatever mix of fertilizer your soil sample says. And check it a few months later to see effect. We Add our fertilizer in our Spray. As well as hand scoop some macronutrients every spring and fall.

Planting Stock. Plant the largest Transplants you can find. Don’t Out-plant Plugs, or Seedlings. Only transplants. I have planted everything here. And the only thing that really thrives are 2-2 or Larger. And I prefer P+3. Or 3-2 if I can get them. 5 year old planting stock is expensive but so is replanting once the 2-0 seedlings die.

Good luck. And remember it’s a 10-12 year commitment, so some failure along the way is fine.   (I should know.  I’ve pretty much failed on all aspects so far!   Learning the hard way 

– Jeremy