Starting a Christmas tree farm is a great idea to direct your resources, time, and investment toward. Whether you already own an acreage to set aside for this scheme or plan to buy some land, this business holds significant potential to be profitable and successful.
21 Tips for a Successful Christmas Tree Farm
The following tips will help you to start and flourish a Christmas tree farm:
#1 Pay Attention To Soil
Christmas trees, on principle, don’t like wet conditions. They also don’t grow in areas that are affected by erosion. So, for starters, you should be looking into areas where the land is well-drained.
When buying land for this business, most people make the mistake of thinking that they can gain profits off of unprofitable land. But Christmas trees are quite picky with soil, so pick your land wisely. If you don’t have the opportunity to get land with optimal soil conditions, you can hire grading experts to improve it before planting.
#2 Learn About pH Levels
Well-drained soil is a determining factor for every tree. But each species works with different pH levels that ensure good growth. Therefore, farmers have to be cautious about it to achieve efficient tree production. Learning about soil pH is also significant while deciding the Christmas tree species for your farm as they differ in pH preferences.
Such as the optimal soil pH value for Fraser Fir is 5.5 – 6.0. For Douglas Fir and Colorado Blue Spruce, it is 6.0 – 6.5. One thing to remember is that these are only the optimal values, and some species can tolerate pH values that fall outside of the optimal range.
For example, Colorado blue spruce can work with a pH that exceeds up to 7.0. Interestingly that is not the case with all species, and they are extremely sensitive to pH levels. Thus they will not grow satisfactorily at sites that do not have an optimal pH value.
Other than this, you should also check the potassium and phosphorus levels. It is vital to ensure a strong foundation for the trees.
#3 Don’t Neglect To Weed Regularly
Christmas trees in the early months of their lives are especially sensitive to natural issues. Weeds in Christmas tree plantings are one of the most difficult things to control. They grow rapidly and reduce growth rates in young trees. They can also destroy the shape of older ones.
Furthermore, different insects build a refuge out of them. As a result, microclimates are formed, and they go on to spread harmful diseases. Weeds also slow down the process of shearing, spraying, and harvesting.
Hence, you should keep weed control in mind before planting the trees. Map out the area and find out the major weeds present. In addition, check soil type, elevation, and drainage system beforehand. You should also use post-emergence herbicide to kill weeds before cultivation.
#4 Have A Watering Plan
A drip irrigation system is the most efficient for Christmas tree farms. It is because, as mentioned above, well-drained soil is a must for these trees. Young trees benefit a lot from regular water as they need time and care to have their roots set in place. And a strong root base is unlikely to develop in puddles of water.
Also, when you water your farm, it will attract plenty of wildlife. It means that protective fencing may also become necessary to ensure good production.
#5 Take Your Time with Species Selection
Geographic region and climate are the principal factors in choosing Christmas tree species to be planted. Some species like the climate in mountainous regions. Others are more suitable to be grown in the coastal plain.
In addition to this, you must also look at the business aspect of species selection. Which species sells in which region? Is it marketed through regional and national wholesale markets? Is it marketed at local ones?
Moreover, before you make a decision, you should learn whether or not your land is feasible for that species. In short, you should thoroughly explore all of these factors regarding species selection that will determine your business’s success.
#6 Check the Planting Stock
Once you have selected your Christmas tree species, it is time to shift your focus to the planting stock. Remember that picking a species does not complete the job—selecting the right size, age, and quality of the planting stock is also very important.
You should examine the seedlings closely and check whether they are healthy or not. Typically, healthy seedlings have light-colored roots with no stripped root tips and uniformly green foliage. It is possible to grow your own planting stock, but the production of these seedlings is not usually suited to Christmas tree growers.
#7 Grow Complementary Products
A Christmas tree comes with many other things that add up to the Christmas theme. With that in mind, you can expand the theme of your Christmas tree farm. The most popular choice is holly as it grows luscious red berries that are perfect for this theme. They are also part of the classic holiday tradition so you can attract more customers with this.
#8 Grow Your Farm Anywhere
Christmas tree farms can flourish anywhere if you have enough land. Generally, Pacific Northwest is ideal for Christmas tree farms. However, the truth is that farmers in every state in the United States are able to gather great products annually.
If you are in doubt, do a little research. There are operational Christmas tree farms in every state. Therefore, you will have many opportunities to run a successful business wherever you are, even in Hawaii.
#9 Plan A Proper Plantation Layout
A preplanned layout is necessary for a successful Christmas tree farm business. If a structure of tree fields, roads, and work areas is established before planting, it will save you a lot of money. In particular, you will be able to make savings during management and harvesting.
You can bring out professionals for the construction of roads. Poorly constructed roads will eat up your money in extra maintenance. Also, they can cause drainage problems which eventually lead to erosion problems and root diseases.
Moreover, the placement of roads is also significant. The common practice is to place a road every 16 to 20 rows. With such a layout, you can manage your farm with ease. Spray applications can be done conveniently from the roads. Moreover, trees don’t have to be carried over far distances during harvest with such a layout.
#10 Invest In Site Preparation
Once you have the site, it is time to prepare it for planting. Whether it is a forest, abandoned field, or pasture; each land requires a different operation to make it ready for tree establishment. Depending upon the land and its condition, site preparation may involve raking roots, disking, chisel plowing, strip-tilling, subsoiling, pushing stumps and rocks, and smoothing the ground with a bulldozer.
Remember that saving money by neglecting proper site preparation will only cost more during planting and early production. Hence, it is best to invest generously into this process.
#11 Analyze The Location Of Your Business
Most customers don’t go too far from home to purchase a Christmas tree. Therefore, if your farm is out of the way, you have to work on attracting your customers to it. It is a critical factor that can determine the number of your annual sales.
#12 Be Aware Of the Frost
Frost can be deadly to a Christmas tree farm. If a new growth falls victim to a late frost in your region, you can end up losing the entire growing season. Needless to say, it is a significant loss as this crop takes years to mature. If you live in such a region where the last frost is late in the season, you can tackle this problem by selecting a species that can withstand it, and a good choice is Canaan Fir.
#13 Carry Out Shearing By Hand
It is one of the most rewarding aspects of the business. When shearing is done by hand, you can shape the new growth in your desired manner, and the results are worth it. Although it takes a considerable amount of time, this technique is preferred by most farmers.
#14 Limit Growth The First Few Years
A Christmas tree farm is not a fast-paced business—unlike cash crops. When you begin this journey, you may want to use all the space you have on your land to plant trees, but it is not wise to do so.
The reason is that this strategy will leave no room for error. If the crops don’t turn out satisfactorily for whichever reasons, it is better to experiment on a small subject first. So go steadily about it and focus on establishing a good reputation first.
#15 Double Your Projections
When you start a business, you estimate all the expenses. With a Christmas tree farm, however, you will need to be more liberal with your estimates. A general rule is that you can double the expense projections as there will be many things that will add to total costs. Aside from buying various equipment such as a tractor and an auger, there are land expenses and taxes to take into account.
#16 Cut Out Double Tops
Caring for newly planted trees includes watching out for double tops. If you miss one and it remains in place for four years, you will have two trees in place of one. And from a sales point of view, both will be a waste as they will be unshapely. It means that you will immediately lose what could turn into profits.
#17 Find A Working Sales Strategy
In a Christmas tree farm business, finding the right way to sell is extremely crucial. You have to consider all your options first. You can opt for a cut-your-own business and sell your trees individually. In this strategy, you have to take heed of higher liability insurance that will protect your assets.
Another option is to sell your products wholesale to a retailer who will provide them to customers. You can also blend both of these options to extend your reach—many Christmas tree growers are using this strategy nowadays.
#18 Prune Your Christmas Trees
Christmas trees require pruning throughout their lives if you want them to reach their classic shape. In the early years, shaping and pruning them is not too difficult. However, more effort and care are needed once they grow bigger and taller than five feet in height.
#19 Prepare Yourself For A Long-Term Commitment
Christmas trees are not an investment you can make and reap the profits within months. When you start this business, you must be ready to invest your time, effort, and money into something that will take years to show results.
Some Christmas tree species take up to ten years to fully mature. It means that you will be working for over seven years, more or less, without any sales. So the key is to have an efficient system in place, proper planning, and most of all, patience.
#20 Become A Retailer
This option is convenient if you don’t have enough capital for starting a Christmas tree farm or don’t have land. With this plan, you can open a retail lot, purchase wholesale trees and turn them into retail buys. This way, you can generate considerable profits and use your savings to expand your business.
Every business requires good advertisement, and so does this one. Get flyers, posters, and flags made for your business. Put out as many banners and signs as you can to draw customers. You can also use social media for this purpose.
Moreover, you can plan different holiday themes events at your property, so customers see the appeal of your products in person. This particular marketing strategy is quite popular as of recent.