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How to Become a "Christmas Tree Grower"

Christmas Tree Farm: A Christmas tree farm composed of planting of specific tree species that are cultured under an intensive management plan for the production of high-quality Christmas trees. Intensive management involves three major phases. Weed control is critical during the first two years in order to remove competition for available moisture, nutrients and sunlight. Insect and disease control is standard practice throughout the rotation and is accomplished through timely spray programs to prevent the deformity of trees. Proper tree shaping techniques must be conducted beginning during the second year. There are approximately 30 Christmas tree farms in Oklahoma. Most of them are classified as "choose-and-cut" operations, providing families quality Christmas trees and a fun and memorable experience.

How much land do I need?  The amount of land you need is determined by the rows and spacing of trees:

           Spacing of rows           Trees per Acre
            5  foot centers                    1742
            6  foot centers                    1210
            7   foot centers                      888
            8  foot centers                      681
            9  foot centers                      538

Your tree spacing is determined by the width of your mowing and spraying equipment. Some growers with small lawn tractors may plant on 7 foot centers, but most growers plant their rows 8 or 9 feet wide. A grower with 8 foot rows, for example, will commonly use a 5 foot mower. Since trees planted this year will be available for sale in 5 or 6 years, new growers should layout 5 or 6 plots to be planted over the next 5 or 6 years.

How long does it take to grow a sellable tree? It can take 5 or 6 years to grow a tree 6-8 foot tall. Trees which are irrigated may grow faster. Growers should plant a manageable number of trees with respect to the time available for orchard maintenance

What equipment will I need to get started?

          a Mower     a Back-pack sprayer
          Pruning shears     a Shearing knife
          a Dibble bar             Tip moth monitoring traps
          Measuring cups     Telephone

What kind of trees do I plant? The type of trees you plant is determined by your soil composition. Tree species must be within the guidelines of those recommended for the given area based on research findings. The major tree species planted in acid soil is the Scotch Pine and the Virginia Pine. The species for alkaline soil is the Aldarica Pine. A newer variety, the Leyland Cypress, is showing success in both areas.

How much time will it take for tree maintenance? The three basic fuctions you will perform are weed-control, insect-disease control and tree-shaping. Hobby growers may find planting and maintaining 500-2000 trees per year is the maximum amount of work for their free time, while full time growers may plant 5,000-10,000 trees per year.

How much capital do I need? If you have land, the costs for establishing a Christmas tree plantation are low, with labor not counted. Hobby growers usually provide their own labor. Seedlings are purchased at the State Forest Regeneration Center in Goldsby, Oklahoma.

What should I do to get started? Join the Oklahoma Christmas Tree Association, an alliance of christmas tree growers from across the State of Oklahoma. With OCTA, you tap into a state wide network with years of valuable experience. Because you'll have questions along the way, you are only a telephone call away from friends who can help. OCTA hold two meetings a year- the winter meeting in January and the summer meeting held at a tree farm, which provides an opportunity for seminars and education with fellow tree growers and experts including extention foresters and university forestry professors.

Click here for the Membership Application


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