Christmas tree growers prepare for busy year
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Larry Haley is expecting a busy year at his Christmas tree farm in Saucier.
“Normally, we can’t keep up with the demand,” said Haley, who has run Holly Berry Christmas Tree Farm along with his family since 2005. “We run out of trees sometimes. That’s a good thing for us. But it also means someone may be disappointed.”
Haley said he sells about 500 trees per year. That may sound like a lot, but they go fast.
“We’ll reach that easy this year,” he said. “Once we sell out, we close.”
Families who want to be sure to get the perfect tree should visit their local tree farm as early as possible, said Mike Buchart, executive secretary of the Southern Christmas Tree Association, which includes members from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
“Most growers will probably be sold out by the second week after Thanksgiving,” Buchart said. “Some will sell out on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s best to go as early as possible. If your tree farm offers pretagging, that is a good way to be sure to get the tree you want.”
Many tree farms, including Holly Berry Christmas Tree Farm and Kazery Farm offer this preselection process.
“Some people don’t realize that they can choose their tree before it is time to take it home,” said Kazery Farm owner Don Kazery. “They can come out select their tree, and when they are ready to take it home, they come back, we cut it down, and they take it home.
“Pretagging is a good option for people who can’t come during the prime selection time, which is usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, and want a tree with a certain scent, height, or width.”
Jeff Wilson, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said families should find the tree they are looking for at one of Mississippi’s many Christmas tree farms.
“Most growers have fared well, despite the drought conditions we’ve experienced over most of the state this year,” Wilson said. “Most of the crop is looking good, especially if growers had irrigation.”
Drought is more of a concern for trees up to 2 years old. More mature trees can withstand drought much better.
Wilson said that some growers dealt with fungal disease in early spring, but it was nothing unexpected. Because of Mississippi’s humid climate, preventive spraying is part of the Christmas tree business.
“So far, we’ve not had any major issues with disease,” said Haley. “We use a spray program from March to September that takes care of that.”
Many tree farmers offer precut trees grown in other states. However, Buchart said the supply of these trees is tight again this year.
When cared for properly, real trees pose less of a fire risk than artificial trees. Families should be sure to keep the tree watered, keep it away from heat sources and use LED light strands.
“Since we’ve had drought conditions, trees will drink even more water in the first several days once people get them home,” said Kazery. “So, it’s important to check the water level in the stand when you get up in the mornings and before you go to bed at night.”
Average cost for a Christmas tree is $10 to $16 per foot, or about $60 for a 6-foot tree. Larger trees and certain varieties sell for more per foot because of the inputs, including labor and materials.
For more tips on how to care for a real tree, read our Extension for Real Life blog post at https://bit.ly/3Unk66U. To find a choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm, visit the Southern Christmas Tree Association website at http://www.southernchristmastrees.org.
Holly Berry Christmas Tree Farm will open Nov. 12 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for families to participate in the preselection process. Kazery Farm will host their first pretagging day on Nov. 12.
Days and times vary for farms that offer pretagging. Call to confirm if and when a tree farm offers pretagging.