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Rainy season equals good tree season

SHELOCTA — Most people might wish for a traditional “white Christmas.” However, Christmas tree growers guarantee the holiday season will be “green,” at least as far as trees are concerned.

Their pledge is ensured by this summer’s above normal rainfall, which have made evergreen trees lush, green, and very dense, according to tree grower Jim Fleming.

“People will have a lot of good trees to choose from this year,” Fleming said. “The trees we cut for market in early November will have a lot of moisture in them and that means they will retain their needles a lot longer. The last few summers we had little rain and trees shed their needles a lot quicker.”

While summer rains mean green trees, there were a few “downsides” to the abundant precipitation. Fleming said heavy rains contributed to an unusually high growth of grass, which vied with the trees for minerals in the ground, and necessitated frequent mowing on the Fleming’s 325-acre tree farm.

“The rains also leeched out a lot of minerals in the ground and we had to apply extra fertilizer to ensure good tree growth,” he said.

Fleming and his brother Donald operate Flemings Landscaping Service. Although the brothers don’t do actual landscaping work, they sell thousands of trees to nurseries for resale to homeowners.

The Flemings also operate a “cut-your-own” Christmas tree service. Each year, hundreds of customers from as far as Pittsburgh and Johnstown visit the Flemings farm to select and harvest a tree.

“We give out customers a bow saw,” said Fleming saying customers can go to designated areas and cut a Douglas or Fraser fir or blue spruce.

“We have some Scotch pine but the pines are falling out of popularity. Firs and spruces last longer, are more dense and retain their needles longer,” he said.

The Flemings also sell trees for replanting with the concolor fir one of the popular species.

“The concolor fir is not normally bought for a Christmas tree,” Fleming said. “They are sold for landscaping. They are a very dense tree with moderately long needles. They emit a delightful orange-like fragrance and the needles are a unique shade of green. They area very beautiful trees and gaining in popularity.”

The Flemings also deal with another problem unrelated to the weather — deer damage.

“Deer love to eat certain species of trees,” he said. “They seem to love Fraser fir and we lose a lot of trees every year to deer damage.”

At present, the Flemings have crews doing a final grass cutting and digging trees for fall plantings. Starting in November, they will be busy cutting trees for shipment to tree wholesalers.

“Right after the first few days of the deer season, we will open our farm to our ‘cut-your-own’ customers,” he said. “I think anyone who buys evergreen trees from the northeast this year will be delighted with the quality of tree they get, thanks for the most part to the heavy summer rains.”


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