This year there are 11 tree farms in and just outside the greater Kawarthas region where you can harvest your own locally grown Christmas tree.
In the Kawarthas, you can visit Murray Tree Farm in Apsley, Oscar’s Tree Farm in Campbellcroft, Oake Family Tree Farm in Cavan-Monaghan Township, Barrett’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cobourg, Little Lake Christmas Trees in Colborne, J&D Christmas Trees in Colborne, Dawson Tree Farm in Millbrook, and Potash Creek Farms in Omemee.
Just outside the Kawarthas, you can harvest your own tree at Powell’s Trees in Bowmanville, Prestonvale Tree Farms in Courtice, and Hope’s Tree Farm in Hampton.
Last season, Blackstone Christmas Tree Farm in Blackstone and Kol Tree Farms in Roseneath both closed permanently.
With the dry spells and hot weather across the country this summer, some local tree farmers have reported a difficult year for farming trees.
The lack of growth has affected the opening hours of some of the farms, including Little Lake Christmas Trees, which is running by appointment only this year.
“I would love to have more people on the farm, but our trees just didn’t grow very much,” says owner David Smyth. “Rather than have people show up and not find the tree they want or show up and cut a tree that isn’t quite ready for harvest, it’s easier to have people call first and tell me what they’re looking for. If I can find one, that’s great, and if not, I can suggest other local farms.”
Dan Hope of Hope’s Christmas Tree Farm expresses a similar sentiment, adding that the dry seasons aren’t as manageable for the small-scale farms in the region.
“It was really good early in the year, with fresh new growth in May and June, but that prolonged hot spell we had in the early fall and late summer was tough,” he says. “We’re a small, family-run business, so we don’t have irrigation systems. It’s tough for us to keep up with six weeks without water.”
For tree farm addresses, hours, available tree species, prices, and websites, check out the following map:
Why buy a grown-in-Ontario Christmas tree?
Besides helping the local economy (more than 600 Christmas tree farms in Ontario generate around $12 million), farm-grown natural Christmas tree have other benefits.
Christmas trees are one of the most environmentally friendly crops. It takes up to 10 years to grow each tree and, during this time, the trees remove carbon dioxide and airborne pollutants from the atmosphere (up to 13 tons per acre!) and provide protective havens for a wide variety of birds and mammals. It’s also a sustainable crop — for every tree that’s harvested, at least three seedlings are planted in its place.
Buying a tree from a nearby local farm is also more environmentally friendly than buying one shipped in from another part of the country, such as Quebec or the East Coast.
Natural Christmas trees are also 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable. Most municipalities — including those in the Kawarthas region — collect discarded natural Christmas trees and chip them for use as mulching materials.
Discarded natural trees can also be used as bird feeders, wood products can be made from their stems, or they can be used as wildlife cover in fish ponds and woodlots.
Common types of Christmas trees
If you do decide to harvest your own tree this year (or buy a pre-cut one), here’s a quick primer on the most common tree species available:
Balsam Fir – The Balsam Fir holds its dark-green needles well and is a good choice if the decorated tree will be left standing for a longer period of time. Balsam fir branches work well for lighter Christmas ornaments, and the tree has a strong fragrance.
Scots Pine (Scotch Pine) – The Scots Pine is a thick and hardy tree. It resists drying and holds its needles well over the holidays. However, the needles are tough and very pointy.
Fraser Fir – A Christmas tree that’s become very popular in recent years, the Fraser Fir is known for holding its attractive dark blue-green needles and its pleasant scent. Fraser Firs are generally more expensive than other trees as the species has a much longer growing cycle.
Norway Spruce – The traditional Christmas tree in Britain, the Norway spruce is attractive but has a tendency to drop its needles, particularly towards the end of the holidays — especially if the tree is not cut fresh and kept properly watered.
White Spruce – The dense foliage and symmetrical proportions of the White Spruce make it a very beautiful Christmas tree. The tree has a strong scent and its strong slender twigs hold ornaments well. However, the White Spruce is very thirsty and must be watered regularly to prevent it from losing its needles.
Caring for your tree
After you get your tree, follow these tips to keep it fresh and safe:
- If you aren’t setting up the tree immediately, store it outdoors. Keep it in a protected area, away from the wind and sun, to help the tree retain its moisture (an unheated garage is ideal, particularly to keep the tree free of snow). If you plan to store it outside for several days, make a straight cut across the butt end of the tree about one inch from the end, place the butt end in a container of water, and store the tree upright.
- When you bring the tree into the house for decorating, make another fresh cut across the trunk, about an inch from the original cut.
- Trees can drink up to four litres of water per day, so be sure to use a large stand that can hold that much water. Check the water level daily and supply fresh water as needed. Don’t allow the water level to drop below the bottom of the tree, as a seal will form on the bottom and the tree will stop absorbing water (you’ll have to make a new cut).
- Use only fresh water. Don’t add sugar, molasses, bleach, honey, floral preservatives, or other substances to the tree’s water. Experts agree these additives do nothing to maintain the freshness of the tree.
- Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, television sets, and other sources of heat. Turn off the tree lights when you leave and before you retire at night. Under no circumstances should you use lighted candles on a Christmas tree.
- A well-maintained tree should normally remain fresh at least three to four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level. Test the dryness of the tree by running your fingers across the needles. If they break easily or fall off in your hand, the tree is dry and should be discarded.