How does your Christmas tree grow?
With summer out the way, Christmas is looming over us which, amongst everything else, means gift buying and choosing the perfect tree. But have you ever stopped to think where your tree has been before it sits amongst the others, awaiting its Christmas fate? Together with Compost Direct, gardening experts and retailers of lawn top dressing, we look at where Christmas trees originate from and compare real and artificial trees.
The journey of the Christmas tree
If you live in the UK, it is likely that your Christmas tree was grown on home soil. There are many wholesale Christmas tree farmers in the UK and most of their produce goes to garden centres and supermarkets in the country. UK Christmas tree sales accumulate to £280m on average and three quarters of these are home grown.
80% of the market opts for the Nordmann fir tree; with soft foliage and glossy green needles, it’s a perfect tree for decorating. But before you hang tinsel and baubles off its branches, where did it all begin?
Firstly, seeds are taken from cones of mature trees and sown in beds. A protective sheet is placed over the top to prevent any damage from frost or sunlight. For the first two years of their life, weed control is essential to eliminate any competition for moisture, nutrients or sunlight.
After three years, the seedlings are moved to plant beds for two more years until their root system is strong enough to be transplanted into a field. Christmas tree farmers can have hundreds of trees in one field, and must look after them all.
For the next seven to eight years, a lot of care must be given to the trees to ensure they grow in the right way and are suitable to meet customer demand. This is done by trimming the sides of the tree regularly to maintain the classic Christmas tree look; it can be cut in different ways to grow into a ‘full’ or ‘open’ tree. Bud-rubbing is another practise that farmers must do which is where the buds are removed from the top row of branches to enable the side branches to further develop – this results in a thicker tree.
Before harvesting, farmers usually place coloured ribbons on their trees which code for different heights and price brackets. In total, it takes around 12-15 years from seed to harvest!
Real vs artificial
Despite the dedicated work by Christmas tree farmers to grow perfect trees for your home, many people still opt for artificial trees when it comes to the festive season.
Looking at average monthly searches in Google over the past year, it appears that more people search for artificial Christmas trees (14,800) than real Christmas trees (9,900). However, this could be due to the purchase process of each (some fake trees can be bought online).
From a Nordman fir to a Blue spruce, real trees come in all different shapes and sizes. One advantage of grown trees is that, unlike artificial trees, you can choose a tree suitable for your own home and know that no one else will have one the same.
In terms of cost, depending on the size, it is likely that you’ll pay more for a real tree than you would on an artificial one. Moreover, an artificial tree will last you around 10 years whereas a real tree will only last a few weeks.
Some people believe that purchasing a real tree is harming the environment as it is cutting down a plant. However, these trees are a crop and it is not dangerous to cut them down. Unlike artificial trees, real trees are biodegradable too – reducing their carbon footprint further.
Alternatively, you could commit to the long haul and grow your own – cultivating this profitable crop could be a great investment!