How to Start a Christmas Tree Farm on Your Land
With the festive season well underway, let’s talk fir trees - could a Christmas tree farm be the best way to diversify your land?
There will always be a portion of the British public who choose real Christmas trees, over plastic ones, to decorate their home. Undeniably, there’s nothing more inviting than the smell of pine needles on a cold, crisp day.
Speaking of Christmas trees…
It’s that time of year again, when families don their woolen hats, scarves, and gloves, and head over to the local Christmas tree farm to choose their spruce! So, could this be your chance to diversify? Read more, here, about the ins-and-outs of growing Christmas trees in bulk - perhaps it’s the choice for you...
The Popularity of the Christmas Tree Farm
According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), around seven million Christmas trees are sold in the UK every year! That’s a huge amount, and just goes to show that, despite the plastic reusable trees that are available, people still can’t get enough of the piney smell of real Christmas trees.
When first starting out, the market may remain on a local level for a number of years. Of course, there is the option of selling to retail outlets, however, with established suppliers already in place, it could be difficult to infiltrate this market.
Nevertheless, by providing a fair price point, there will always be consumers looking to buy a good quality spruce to decorate with baubles. With the correct marketing, and by providing unique additions, such as other pick your own fruit and vegetables, or a farm cafe, it’s definitely worth a thought!
Types of Christmas Tree Plants
When it comes to planting Christmas trees, there are a number of types to choose from. Depending on your land type, region, and local market, it’s important to choose wisely:
- Norway Spruce (Picea abies): a European tree, which is traditional, cheap, and easy to grow, but is also one of the slowest growing. It loves the sun, and can reach heights of between 15 and 25 metres.
- Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana): grows naturally in Turkey, the Russian Caucasus, and Georgia. It’s known for retaining needles throughout the festive season, and grows as high as 61 metres.
- Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri): native to the southeastern states of the USA, the Fraser Fir can grow up to 15 metres tall. It’s named after John Fraser, the Scottish botanist who worked in these regions during the 18th century.
- Noble Fir (Abies nobilis): tall and slender, and can grow between 40 and 70 metres tall. Its growth rate is very slow but, if you’re looking for a grey-green coloured tree, this is the one to choose.
- Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea): native to North America, this is one of the top choices for enjoying a potted Christmas tree in the home during the festive period. It can grow up to 28 metres tall.
- White Fir (Abies concolor): this tree can grow up to 60 metres tall, and is native to western North America. If you want to grow unique Christmas trees, which are white, and work with certain desired aesthetics, this is an ideal choice.
How to Grow Christmas Trees on Your Land
When it comes to growing Christmas trees on your land, there are a certain few factors to bear in mind...
Unlike a number of land diversification options, no planning permission is needed to start up a Christmas tree farm. As long as you abide by the existing agricultural and forestry requirements, like chainsaw training, everything else should fall into place.
Christmas trees are actually one of the easiest plants out there to grow, as they require little maintenance. Just a bit of trimming here and there, to ensure they keep a desirable shape and to get rid of dead or diseased branches, and you’re good to go!
In terms of initial growth, it’s recommended to soak fresh fir seeds in water, and then chill them in a freezer before being sown. Alternatively, if you’re a little impatient, you can buy young firs to plant on your plot, and can yield a return quicker.
Ideally, seeds and plants should be sourced from a trusted supplier, so you can ensure your efforts will be rewarded. Simply remember to sow each seed around one metre apart in gritty, level, fertile, well-drained soil, for the best results.
A Word of Warning
Christmas trees are known to be adversely affected by pests and disease. For example, weeds can especially affect the lower branches of the tree. However, these can be best controlled by using herbicides, and prepping the ground properly before planting (for more information about getting rid of weeds, click here).
It’s also wise to prep the ground against rabbits and deer. This can be done through one-metre high fencing surrounding the plot, with the bottom half buried in a trench. This way, deer can’t jump the fence, and rabbits won't be able to bury underneath.
Planning for Success
When setting up any diversification project, attention to detail and forward planning are key. With Christmas trees, in particular, it will take 10 years for your seedlings to grow to maturity. This means that you must account for planting new spruces annually, to line up a running collection which keeps up with the yearly demand.
Another of the most important elements of setting up a Christmas tree farm is thinking about budget. Naturally, it depends on the scale of what you’re doing, but it’s likely that it’ll take a few years of selling trees before a profit is seen.
Christmas trees can rake in between £40 and £200 per tree, depending on the size, making them a low maintenance cash crop for diversifying farmers. Adding in the cost of labour, weed control, maintenance and pruning, and unsold trees, there are just a few outgoings which must be accounted for.
If you have an additional pocket of money to spare, it may also be wise to insure against crop failure. That said, if you maintain your land and trees properly, Christmas trees are unlikely to fail!
Learn How to Succeed in Christmas Tree Farming
At the Farm Business Innovation Show, our exhibitors provide diversifying farmers with the means to build new business ideas from the ground up. Whether it be marketing ideas, help with rural planning or finance, or anything else in between, the exhibition next year is the ideal destination.
If you like the sound of diversifying your land into Christmas tree farming, or anything else in between, stay tuned for our FREE tickets. Or, if you think you could provide diversifying farmers with expert advice and services to help them diversify in new ways, get in touch!
For all enquiries about exhibiting at next year’s show, at the NEC, Birmingham on 11th & 12th November, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Event Director, Reece Morris, via his email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call +44 (0)117 929 6087. We can’t wait to meet you!