Driving up to the intersection of Routes 443 and 895 on the other side of McKeansburg, you will be taken by the scenery of scores upon scores of Christmas trees in various stages of growth gracing the landscape. Christmas tree farms are found along main routes and back roads of southern Schuylkill County.
Some years ago Susan Hyland, a former colleague of mine who was the master gardener go-to at Penn State Extension-Schuylkill, wrote this about the impact of real trees:
“Real Christmas trees are an all-American, recyclable, and renewable resource that has continued uses after the holiday season is over. Unlike artificial trees, which cannot be easily recycled and provide no benefits to the environment, Real trees can be converted into mulch or used as a refuge/feeding station for wild birds in the winter.
“Many people perceive cutting down trees as bad for the environment, but real trees no longer come from the forest. They are grown on farms throughout North America. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 98% of all Christmas trees are grown on farms.
“Real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases to create fresh oxygen. The 1 million acres of Christmas trees in the United States translates into oxygen for 18 million people every day. For every real tree harvested, an average of three seedlings are planted in its place. Most artificial trees are manufactured overseas from petroleum and plastics. Real trees are a homegrown, renewable resource.”
And Christmas tree farming is big business here in our county as part of what is called
“agri-business,” best described as the county’s and the state’s number one
economic driver. Many tree farms also provide “agro-tainment” that complements
customers who patronize their operation.
Here is a snippet of some of the most common Christmas trees found on local farms:
• Eastern White Pine: This is a nice soft needled tree with clusters of mostly five needles in a bundle. Good tree that you can use indoors especially if you have pets and little children due to the soft quality of its needles.
• Colorado Blue Spruce: Features stiff silvery-blue to green needles that are 1 inch long. Considered “King of the Ornamentals” due to its handsome shape and features.
• Balsam Fir: Hands down this tree is the most fragrant of the trees, making it the most
popular Christmas tree variety. They are durable and have short, flat, dark green
• Concolor Fir: Its needles are 1 1/2 inches long and are positioned on the topside of
the stem and point upwards. They are usually a green blue silver color and when
crushed have a smell of citrus or oranges that is quite pleasant.
There are many more varieties of trees but these are the most common.
Susan Hyland wrote about selecting and caring for your real Christmas tree:.
“Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needle should bend and not break and should be hard to pull off of the branches. One simple test for freshness is to gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in you hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some drop of older, interior needles is a natural and normal part of a tree’s growth.
“As soon as the tree is brought home make a fresh cut removing at a maximum of 1 inch of the trunk and place the tree in a sturdy water holding stand. If you have a pin stand and the retailer has drilled your tree and you cut off more than an inch, the hole will not be big enough and the stand won’t work.
“Make sure the stand is kept full of water so that it does not dry out. Avoid small ‘coffee cup’ stands that hold too little water. A stand that will hold a 4-inch diameter trunk should hold at least 1 gallon of water after the tree is set up.”
Source: Berkshire mont