Local Christmas tree farmers prevail despite drought - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Local Christmas tree farmers prevail despite drought

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IDA TOWNSHIP, Michigan -

Local Christmas tree farms have been getting by with less, when it comes to rainfall, this year.

We spoke with two of the area's more prominent Christmas tree farmers, and learned how the recent drought has impacted their crop.

This year's drought is leaving Toledo with a nearly three inch rainfall deficit, and November hasn't helped. The month ends at the end of the week, and we have seen less than an inch so far at the Toledo Express Airport.

"Conditions are dry now, as they were in the summer," Wilbert Matthes, of the Matthes Evergreen Farm told us from his farm in Ida Township, Michigan. 

Mr. Matthes has been growing Christmas trees for decades. In fact, he's proud of the fact that some of his "regulars" are third-generation customers. For decades, he has learned to work with whatever mother nature sends - or doesn't send - his way.

"We don't do any irrigation. I don't feel like I can spare the acreage to have a pond, and that's what a lot of local farmers use for irrigation."

The established trees have done okay, this year.

Lee Casper, a master gardener who happened to be buying a Christmas tree at the farm this Monday, said she lost a few smaller trees.  However, "the heavier - like the blue spruces and others like that, seem to be doing okay."

Mr. Matthes added, "we have a good crop of Christmas trees this year. We planted quite a few fir in the past, and they're coming into market right now, so we're quite proud of the selection of trees that we have this year."

However, some of the very young trees have suffered. One of the owners of a different local tree farm told us that he lost about half of the new seedlings he planted this year, due to the drought. The Matthes Evergreen Farm's seedlings did okay, but the dry weather caused trouble with another part of their crop.

"The trees that we lost were 3-4' tall and up on a sand hill."

Mr. Matthes explained that they need to spray an herbicide between the rows of trees. Typically, rain washes it deeper into the soil, away from the roots.  That necessary rain was scarce, this year, "between the dry weather and the chemicals. Typically the chemicals would normally have leeched away from the root zone, but in this case, it didn't," and they lost a patch of younger trees.

The heartier trees, ready to purchase, are seven to nine years old.

"We did notice that for the trees that we put up in the office and other areas here that they took up a lot of water - they took up a lot of water in the first few days," Matthes said.

Some trees are sprayed with a material that helps to lock moisture into the needles, after being cut.

Some companies add a dye or paint to the material, to further enhance the color.

Drought or no drought, it's important to supply plenty of water to a tree that has been cut.

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