‘Tis the Season: Christmas Trees Just Don’t Appear

Most of us have heard the term "Christmas in July," usually as part of some overhyped ad campaign. But Christmas trees in July probably haven’t crossed our minds too often. But the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association says July is a busy month in preparing trees for the upcoming season.

Here’s a portion of their latest message — to take your mind off the summer heat.

Real tree consumers will be ready to purchase when late November and December come around but few know that June through August are the busiest and most difficult months for the growers. Trees, weeds, and insect and disease pests are all thriving in the warm Indiana weather, thus requiring constant attention if quality trees are to be produced.

All quality Indiana Fresh Brand Christmas Trees require some form of pruning or shearing, as the growers call it. The amount and time of shearing is dependent on the tree species. This process helps to determine whether the tree will be tall and narrow, or shorter and wider at the bottom. The amount of shearing will also determine how full the tree is. One Indiana grower explains that they shear to produce trees full enough that you cannot see the trunk but not so full or dense that the ornaments slide off. Trees from different growers can take on a different appearance due to shearing techniques.

Scotch pine, the most common Indiana grown Christmas tree is usually sheared beginning about the middle of June. White pine is similar to Scotch pine but it is usually sheared beginning about the first of July. Shearing can continue into August but enough time must be allowed for the sheared trees to set buds for the following growing season. The fir species, which are becoming increasingly popular in Indiana, are usually sheared beginning in the middle of July. They are sheared with a knife as well, but some species require hand pruning, particularly the upper portions.

Even before shearing begins, proper weed control is essential. Many growers use the same pre-emergent herbicides that row-crop producers use. These are applied early in the spring and as the season continues, post emergent herbicides are applied. Glycophosphate is a poplar herbicide, but care must be exercised to prevent it from contacting the trees. These herbicides are used sparingly in bands just where the trees are growing. This minimizes herbicide use and prevents erosion in the untreated and more exposed areas between the rows.