For the first several years our biggest job is keeping trees alive and growing properly. Usually in the second or third year trees may need a light shearing to reduce excessive top growth and to begin the shaping process.
In the winter of the third year, trees are butt pruned. This is the process of removing the lower limbs up the truck 6-8 inches from the soil surface. Butt pruning serves several functions – it forces growth to the upper portion of the tree; it puts a handle (part that goes into the tree stand) on the tree; and last but most importantly, removes the excess bottom growth that is very susceptible to disease and insect infection. This greatly reduces the use of pest control products.
Shearing is one of the most important jobs to producing beautiful trees, but it is also the most time consuming and labor intensive job on a Christmas tree farm. Here at Evergreen Acres all the shearing is done by two people to ensure quality control. No hired labor is used to shear our trees!
In year three or four our trees start being sheared annually. Most shearing is doneShearing serves several functions – reduces heighth growth, allowing the lower portion of branches to “fill in”; reduces multiple stems at the top of the tree to only one central “leader”; and develops the typical conical shape we expect to see in our Christmas trees.
Depending upon the tree species and the stage of growth, different shearing methods are used. When trees are young, for the most part, we use conventional hedge shears to begin our shaping process. As the trees get larger we use a machine called a “rotary knife”. Basically, a rotary knife is a weed whacker with a curved head with a rotary 4-tooth blade. The rotary knife is used to shape the sides of the tree. The tops are shaped with hedge shears.
As the species of white pine and douglas fir get to 4-5 years of age, they are sheared with a SAJE. The SAJE is a motorized backpack with an 8 inch reciprocating blade hanging in front. The blade may be either 6 or 8 feet in length. The SAJE does an excellent job of maintaining the desired conical shape of the tree. The tops of trees sheared with a SAJE are shaped using hedge shears.