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Christmas Trees Need Water Before Harvest
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Homeowners are cautioned every year to keep their Christmas trees watered, but growers are the one's needing that advice this year.
Steve Dicke, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said this year's drought also could reduce the longevity of Christmas trees after harvesting.
"Trees won't be as healthy as normal, so they may dry out faster after harvest making water in the tree stand even more important this year," Dicke said. "On the other hand, it will be more water than they've seen in awhile."
Dicke said this year's drought caused tremendous survival problems for newly planted trees and increased disease pressure. All species grown in Mississippi are drought resistant, but this year has been extraordinarily dry and hot.
"Drought-stressed trees are more susceptible to disease problems. Even Leyland cypress trees, which normally have very little disease problems, were affected," Dicke said. "Hopefully, a fungicide spraying regime should help in the future."
Dicke said many growers had to work extra hard to save their trees. They hauled garden hoses to the trees and increased weed control around trees to help the water situation for the crop.
The primary species grown in Mississippi are Leyland cypress, Virginia pine, Arizona cypress and Eastern red cedar.
Raburn May and his wife, Shirley, recently received grand champion honors with an 8-foot Leyland cypress grown on their farm, Lazy Acres Christmas Trees, near Chunky. The Mays competed in September at the annual meeting of the Louisiana-Mississippi Christmas Tree Growers Association.
With the honor, the Mays earned the opportunity to provide trees for the Mississippi Governor's Mansion. They have provided the governor trees 12 times in 20 years.
May attributed their success to his wife's attention to detail.
"Christmas trees are very labor intensive. There is a lot more to it than selling trees during the holidays. Just come see me when we are sheering in July and August," he said.
Like some other tree farmers, the Mays open their farm to church and school groups during the fall and provide hayrides and information on the Christmas tree operation.
Dicke said award-winning trees may cost $4 to $5 per foot for medium sized trees and $10 to $12 per foot for large trees.
"Bargain hunters can cut costs by selecting Charlie Brown trees that may have a bad side," Dicke said. "Growers shouldn't have as much sales competition as in recent years from the discount stores. The oversupply problem in the past will make stores cut back on their orders this year."