Will Christmas trees of future be hurt?

Published 12:25 am Monday, December 8, 2008

FERRIDAY — It’s Christmas-time in the city, but to get that perfect Christmas tree, city dwellers may have to drive out to the country.

And Christmas tree farmer Marie Potts said that it takes year-round work to ensure that not only this year’s crop makes it to harvest time, but the next several years’ crops as well.

“We already planted 40 trees the other day,” Potts said. “Sometime in the next two months we are going to plant again.”

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The planting for the new year will include approximately 300 trees, while this year’s harvest will take approximately 200 trees, she said.

During the rest of the year, the work includes trimming, spraying for pests and making sure the plants don’t grow crooked.

That challenge presented itself full force this year with the arrival Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The older, more mature trees that will be harvested this season were largely unaffected by the severe weather, but younger, more pliable trees with less established root systems were toppled during the storms.

“My young trees that I will be selling in four or five years were blown over,” Potts said.

So Potts righted the young trees, staked them and is hoping for the best.

“If they are going to be back up straight — if the base is not bad crooked — they will be OK,” she said. “They kind of grew for a couple of weeks in that (bent) position, and when they grow like that they will bend, so some of them will have a bow in the trunk.”

But because of the location of Potts’ tree farm, the hurricane damage was limited, and the older trees didn’t lose their tops or drown from the torrential rains.

“My trees are on a little hill and the ground didn’t get as saturated with the rain and the water as some areas,” she said.

Like most agricultural endeavors, tree farming is mostly an art that you learn as you go, but Potts said that — as a retired teacher — she’s glad it gives her something to do.

“To do it, you have to have the land and the equipment, and you have to be crazy,” she said.