Farmers say Christmas tree crop is bigger than ever despite summer drought

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Farmers say Christmas tree crop is bigger than ever despite summer drought


Critical eye: Emilia McCrea (4), from Knocklyon in Dublin, with her mum Samantha, looking for the perfect Christmas tree at Kelleher’s farm near Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Critical eye: Emilia McCrea (4), from Knocklyon in Dublin, with her mum Samantha, looking for the perfect Christmas tree at Kelleher’s farm near Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

This year’s crop of Christmas trees is fuller than normal thanks to our long, hot summer.

While the record-breaking summer drought killed off many seedlings, it turns out the more hardy older trees have thrived.

Christy Kavanagh, chairman of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, said he had tried to mitigate his losses by planting extra young trees this autumn.

“The drought didn’t affect the big trees. A 9ft tree has roots down 9ft. They like the sun as they’re a high-altitude species. So they liked our dry summer.

“As a result, the trees are very full.

“The [established] trees thrived in the warm conditions, whereas the young ones died,” he explained.

His operation, Kavanagh Christmas Trees in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, plants young trees in spring and autumn. After they were decimated in the lengthy drought, he planted extra this autumn to ensure there will be plenty of trees for Christmas 2028.

In Kelleher’s Christmas Tree Farm outside Naas, Co Kildare, it was a mixed year – they lost a lot of seedlings and smaller plants to drought, but the more mature trees benefited from the summer’s wall-to-wall sunshine.

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“We lost quite a high proportion of [seedlings], that’s where most of the damage occurred,” said Denis L Kelleher, who established the family run farm in the 1970s.

“But we didn’t have a problem with the older trees, in fact they benefited from the sunshine … We’ve got very good trees this year.”

He said there was a surplus of trees this year and the drought of summer 2018 was expected to reduce supplies in eight to 11 years’ time.

But he said consumer demand was “constantly changing” so it is hard to predict if there will, in fact, be a shortage for future Christmases.

However, his son Martin is busy preparing a bumper harvest for individual customers and wholesalers alike.

Another grower, James Carroll of Glenealy Christmas Tree Farm in Co Wicklow, said the drought killed off most of the young trees he planted earlier this year.

“It killed all the ones I planted in the spring,” he explained.

James, a furniture maker, and his brother Dave, a paramedic, bought their operation, Glenealy Christmas Tree Farm, eight years ago. James said they had to water some of the trees over the summer, given the drought.

Meanwhile, Karen Morton, owner of Killakee Christmas Tree Farm in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, said it was too early to tell how many seedlings had been lost. However, this year’s crop of trees had flourished in the long, hot summer.

“The trees this year are magnificent. They’re very full, very vibrant in colour and they smell gorgeous.”

Irish Independent

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