Christmas trees take years to grow into holiday centerpiece

In this file photo

In this file photo

Ever wonder what it takes to grow that evergreen that you have set up in the living room for Christmas?  It’s not an overnight process.

It takes about 10 years to grow a tree that people want to proudly display during the holidays, said Rick Bates, professor of horticulture at Penn State University.

“There’s a fair amount of risk involved, maybe not so much as some other horticultural crops,” he said. “But it’s certainly anything but this idea that you plant the transplant on the farm and walk away from it, and eight years later come back and harvest trees. There is yearly management … it is a farm-grown crop like any other horticultural commodity.”

Growers also must protect trees from infestation, said Bates.

“There are any number of insects or mites that would infect the tree potentially during the course of the growth cycle,” he said. “There are a few diseases as well.”

Bates said truly organic trees are few and far between, since pesticides are a way of life for tree farmers.

The Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association offers these tips on caring for your tree: 

As soon as you bring the tree home, make a fresh cut to remove a maximum of 1 inch of the trunk and place the tree in a sturdy water-holding stand. If you have a pin stand and the retailer has drilled your tree and you cut off more than an inch, the hole will not be big enough and the stand won’t work.
Make sure the stand is kept full of water so that it does not dry out. Avoid small “coffee cup” stands that hold too little water. A stand that will hold a 4-inch diameter trunk should hold at least 1 gallon of water after the tree is set up.
Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, televisions, and other heat sources.
Only use indoor lights on your tree, and check lights to see that the cords and connections are in good working order. Be careful not to use more than three light sets per extension cord.
Unplug lights when going to bed or when leaving home.
Research has shown that plain water is by far the best thing to have in the tree’s stand. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss. Water-holding stands that are kept filled with plain water will extend the freshness of trees for weeks.

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