With varying degrees of drought conditions suffered throughout different parts of Minnesota this past summer, consumers are wondering what that means for Christmas tree crops this holiday season.
Currently, Minnesota ranks 10th in the nation in the production of Christmas trees, according to the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association.
"Just about everybody who grows Christmas trees does so in sand soils," said Ron Iverson, owner of Iverson Tree Farms, LLC, near Belview. "They're seeing big losses on seedlings. But people who irrigate are doing OK."
Iverson has relied on a drip irrigation system for a number of years now.
"The drought didn't really have any effect on my trees," he said. "They put their new growth on by the end of June. My trees get water whether Mother Nature gives it to me or not."
Location also has a lot to do with the successful tree crop, as Iverson Tree Farms happens to be in the Minnesota River Valley.
"We have sandy clay loam soil," Iverson said. "It's only about 15 percent sand. It has good moisture retention. Since the irrigation system has moisture sensors, it waters the trees automatically when they need it."
Iverson said that currently, there are seven different species of Christmas trees on his 80-acre farm, 40 acres of which is in production.
"We use a 10-year rotation cycle," he said. "We grow Balsam fir, Canaan fir, Fraser fir, Colorado spruce, Ponderosa pine, Black Hills spruce and Scotch pine. We have 40,000 trees, from 5-foot tall up to 14-foot."
While Greenwood Nursery, with locations in Marshall and Tracy, does not grow its own Christmas trees, the business does rely on annual deliveries from different parts of North America. Greenwood owner Jeff Farber has been impressed with the trees that have come in so far.
"The Christmas trees we've been getting from North Carolina, the Fraser firs, are actually really good," Farber said. "They've had plenty of rainfall, so the trees are nice and fresh and green."
Greenwood Nursery also gets Balsam firs from Novia Scotia, Canada.
"Those have been very good trees over the years," Farber said. "We've been getting them for about 10 years. Nova Scotia has a very moderate climate, with lots of rain and humidity."
The Balsam firs just arrived at Greenwood Nursery last week, Farber said.
"They've had plenty of moisture, so no one has to worry about the trees being too dry or anything," he said. "They're very nice trees."
This past weekend, Iverson said the flow of customers at the tree farm was similar to that on other Thanksgiving weekends, and he expects the traffic to pick up even more this upcoming weekend.
"We're having Santa Claus and horse-drawn hay rides on Saturday," Iverson said. "We'll be very busy as we have good weather forecasted. We'll actually be very busy until Christmas."
At Iverson Tree Farms, customers are supplied with everything they need to chop down their own tree, including the saws and ropes.
"We get a lot of families who come out," Iverson said. "We've had three and four generations who have shown up. Every 12 rows, I have a field row so people can access the farm very comfortably from their vehicle. There's also hot apple cider and a nice warm room in our sale room."
Farber also said he expects Greenwood Nursery to continue seeing more and more trees being sold the next few weekends.
"A little more snow wouldn't be bad, though," he said. "It gets people in the Christmas mood."