Christmas is fast approaching! Amongst gift buying, decorating the home and singing carols, you need to choose the perfect tree. Have you ever stopped to think where your tree has been before it sits amongst the others, awaiting its Christmas fate? Together with Compost Direct, gardening experts and retailers of multi-purpose compost, we look at where Christmas trees originate from and compare real and artificial trees.
From seed to harvest
There are many Christmas tree farms here in the UK, and if you buy a real tree in the UK it’s likely that it was grown on home soil. Most of their produce goes to garden centres and supermarkets in the country. UK Christmas tree sales accumulate to £280m on average and three quarters of these are home grown.
The most popular type of tree that people like to put up in their home for Christmas is the Nordmann fir tree — 80% of the market chose this tree. But before you hang tinsel and baubles off its branches, where did it all begin?
When growing a Christmas tree, the first step to take is sourcing the seed. Christmas tree farmers take the seeds from the cones of mature trees and sow them in beds. A protective sheet is placed over the top to prevent any damage from frost or sunlight. For the first two years of their life, weed control is essential to eliminate any competition for moisture, nutrients or sunlight.
The seedlings stay in their original beds for three years. After this, they are moved to new beds which are larger — giving the roots of the trees a chance to grow and develop. Only after two years of growing in these beds, they are transferred to a field. Christmas tree farmers can have hundreds of trees in one field, and must look after them all.
Over the next seven to eight years, farmers must dedicate extra time to the growing and maintenance of the trees to help them grow into the ‘Christmas tree’ shape. This is done by trimming the sides of the tree regularly to maintain the classic Christmas tree look; it can be cut in different ways to grow into a ‘full’ or ‘open’ tree. Bud-rubbing is another practise that farmers must do which is where the buds are removed from the top row of branches to enable the side branches to further develop – this results in a thicker tree.
Before the trees are sent to garden centres or supermarkets, farmers sort their crop. They do this by placing coloured ribbons on the trees to differentiate between size, species and price. In total, it takes around 12-15 years from seed to harvest!
Real vs artificial — how to decide?
Farmers invest a lot of time and effort into growing the perfect Christmas trees for the nation. However, some people still prefer to have an artificial tree in their home.
This is evident too when looking at Google search data. It appears that more people search for artificial Christmas trees (14,800) than real Christmas trees (9,900). However, this could be due to the purchase process of each (some fake trees can be bought online).
The best thing about a real tree is that no two are the same. From a Nordmann fir to a Blue spruce, real trees come in all different shapes and sizes. Unlike artificial trees, you can choose a tree suitable for your own home and know that no one else will have one like it.
Looking at cost, it is likely that you would spend more money purchasing a real tree than you would if you bought an artificial tree. Moreover, an artificial tree will last you around 10 years whereas a real tree will only last a few weeks.
Some people are against purchasing a real Christmas tree as they think that it is harmful for the environment. However, these trees are a crop and it is not dangerous to cut them down. Unlike artificial trees, real trees are biodegradable too – reducing their carbon footprint further.
Instead of purchasing a tree you could commit to the investment and grow your own. Cultivating this profitable crop could be a great investment!