Prairie Yard & Garden: Christmas Tree Production


(gentle instrumental music) – [Narrator] Prairie Yard & Garden is a production of the
University of Minnesota Morris in cooperation with
Pioneer Public Television. Funding for Prairie Yard &
Garden is provided in part by Heartland Motor Company, providing
service for over 30 years in the heart of truck country. Heartland Motor Company, we have your best interests at heart. Farmers Mutual Telephone
Company and Federated Telephone Cooperative,
proud to be powering Acira. Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen in honor of Shalom Hill
Farm, a non-profit rural education retreat center in
a beautiful prairie setting near Windom in southwestern Minnesota. Shalom Hill Farm, ShalomHill.org. Diamond Willow Advanced
Care Assisted Living, providing custom homes
with smaller settings designed especially for high-care needs. – Our family loves to
have a real Christmas tree for the holidays. Both Tom and I grew up having real trees which continued in our married life and now keeps on with our children too. Our daughter had a challenge
with a new cat last year that loved to climb their tree but I guess you could say real trees are a part of our Christmas
holiday tradition. It is funny now, but was not years ago, when Tom accidentally sold
our family Christmas tree. I’m Mary Holm and stay tuned
for the rest of the story on Prairie Yard & Garden. (gentle instrumental music) During the 20 plus years
we owned a greenhouse we loved the Christmas season
and sold lots of trees. One year the kids and I
picked out a beautiful tree and tucked it in the back greenhouse where it would be safe until we had time to take it home for decorating. Well, you guessed it, Tom
needed one more for a customer and our family tree went out the door. Thank goodness we had more trees just like our guest
today, Wayne Lesmeister of Wayne-N-Jean’s Evergreens. Welcome, Wayne. – [Wayne] Welcome, Mary. – [Mary] Tell me, how did you get started growing Christmas trees? – Well, we started off when
we purchased our farm here, we had quite a bit of rolling hills and land that was a little undesirable and I wondered what we could do with it and we decided trees was the best answers. To control erosion and have a nice yard, we decided to go all
evergreens in our eight acres that we started our tree farm with. – [Mary] How long does it
take to grow a tree from a seedling until you can start
harvesting that plantation? – [Wayne] Well, we usually
get our seedlings which are two years old and sometimes
four years old from a seed and they’re called T-2s or T-4s and that’s transplants
from the nursery bed, from a seed to the transplant area which is another two years. So when we get our seedlings,
they’re four years old already and then ours take about eight years before we can harvest
’em as a Christmas tree. We get ’em east of
Minnesota, several places. – [Mary] When do you actually plant them and how do you plant them? – [Wayne] Well, we plant
in the spring, usually. We can sit on a two-seed planter and plant ’em that way, bare roots. We usually use a six by six spacing which is six feet apart
and six feet in rows. I usually will make my rows a little wider because I like to be able to drive in and get ’em with a truck. Once they’re harvested
and when people come out to get Christmas trees,
sometimes there’ll be three, four spots where we’ll plant in between other trees so that they get a chance to grow and we save on some
years’ growth that way. – [Mary] How do you get rid of the stumps? – [Wayne] Actually,
we’ve got a machine that pops ’em right outta the ground and we try to get rid
of most of the stumps. Once in a while we have
a few that sneak by us but we’ll interseed a tree right into where the stump was, next to it. We try to get rid of most
of the stumps because sometimes you can have
problems with weevils or grubs or something if
you have too many stumps in your field, you wanna
try to get rid of them to control insect problems. – How do you water all of
those trees that you plant? – We kinda generally take nature’s course and let that happen, otherwise we do have a large tank that we have a
valve on, a spring valve that I move along with a Bobcat and water ’em that way. Otherwise we just set
up a new plot where we set up an irrigation system
for one acre of trees. We get real extreme hot,
dry sometimes windy days where it’s in a row and we
know our trees are hurting, we’re gonna try to get as
much water on ’em as we can. – [Mary] Wayne, how do you
control the weeds out here? – [Wayne] Well, we use a
combination of different chemicals and spray around our trees. – Okay.
– Keep the large weeds down. So we mow a lot, keeps
the weeds down also and it just makes a nice
appearance for our trees. – [Mary] What do you do for deer, rabbits? – [Wayne] Well, we have
to deal with those too. We usually, for regular
trees, we wrap our trees, otherwise for evergreens,
they usually don’t bother our evergreens, it’s
mostly deciduous trees that animals will tend to bother. – Tell me about what you
do during the season, for actually during the growing time, what do you have to do to
get a tree ready for sale? – Well, we do a lot of
shearing and pruning, sometimes you get
branches that aren’t right or something doesn’t look desirable so we go through each
tree and actually walk these tree fields and look ’em over and make sure they’re
ready for the customer. We’ll shear ’em with shearing knives and we always have a hand
pruner in the back pocket and if we see something we
don’t like we’ll prune that off. The important thing is
that we have a nice leader and a nice top and you
don’t want double growths or double leaders so we
will prune away that. And we don’t want a real
long, tall leader either so we’ll prune that
halfway, across diagonal, across the leader so that
there’s a bud sticking up that’s ready to grow
straight again the next year. We do that in July and August. Generally try to do the spruce first as they do harden up faster. I mean, within weeks
after the new, fresh buds come out in the spring, which is June, the new fresh buds will come out. And then, as the month goes on, the weeks go by, they tend
to get harder and straighter and then we try to get that
sheared before they get too hard otherwise it’s hard on your knives. We like to get that done
before, we get our spruce done before the balsams and the white pines. – [Mary] So how many different species of evergreen trees do you grow? – [Wayne] Oh, we have at least four to five different species. We have blue spruce and Black Hills spruce. And then we have Scotch pine and white pine and then we also have some balsam firs. – [Mary] Which are the most popular, which do people seem to prefer
when they come out and buy? – [Wayne] Well, the one of
course that we don’t grow very easily, and that is Fraser fir. They’re heavy trees, they’re greener, they’re softer and they smell great. Our soil does not compat with Fraser firs. We have a heavy clay soil and black dirt top layer. Frasers generally like
a soft, sandy-type loam ground to grow in. And so when we try to grow Frasers they grow very slow. – [Mary] Do you fertilize your trees too? – [Wayne] Yes, we do, we
try to go with a balanced fertilizer. Generally a 13-13-13
balance is what we use for Christmas trees. And sometimes we’ll use an
encapsulated type of fertilizer that releases the nitrogen slowly. Whenever you fertilize
you’ll notice the difference right away because you’ll
see the top green up faster than the bottom and it
just kinda works its way down and then you’ll know
that your fertilizer took control of your tree. – [Mary] Do you also dye your trees? ‘Cause I know that sometimes it’s so nice to have that beautiful color in the home. – [Wayne] Our Scotch pine and white pine is what we use coloring on. It’s a natural colorant that
is non toxic to anything. And so we’ll spray a
dark green hue colorant to our pine trees. We do that in August because they’re done growing. And so you wanna catch that
finished growth product before you stain ’em,
otherwise you end up with a different-colored tree on
the tips of the branches. – [Mary] Really? And it lasts until Christmas?
– Yes. Yeah, in fact if you’ll
look at some of my trees you’ll see some of the colorant
still on the trees yet. – What do you do with the trees that just don’t make it as a Christmas tree? – Sometimes they’ll just keep growing and then we’ll keep trying to shape ’em and make ’em look nice and then we’ll try to sell ’em with the tree spade truck
and move them that way. Otherwise if they just get so bad then we just cull it out of the batch and raise a new one, start over again. – [Mary] Do you ever have to worry about the northwest winds causing
a tree to be crooked? Because we all want straight
Christmas trees for our homes. – [Wayne] Yeah, but nature will
usually straighten ’em out. We usually don’t have that
problem with evergreens, maybe deciduous trees we will but evergreens will usually
take care of themselves. If not, we’ll correct it
with our pruners and shearers and make that tree whole again. – [Mary] When do you actually
go and harvest the trees? – [Wayne] You know, our sales open up the day after Thanksgiving. Generally a week before Thanksgiving we’re out cutting trees and
baling ’em and netting ’em. – [Mary] What do you do
when you have a lot snow? – [Wayne] You know, we’ve
been pretty fortunate, you know, in November there’s
really not a lot of snow yet and so usually we get pretty lucky then. But during the year, you know, when families come out to get a tree, sometimes we have to help ’em a little bit to get down to that trunk and cut it down. – [Mary] How do you
cut all of these trees? – [Wayne] A chainsaw’s actually
the easiest way to do it. But for the customer we
always hand them a saw, a hand saw, and it
really doesn’t take long to cut your own Christmas tree. We put ’em on a hillside
where it can be drained and we lay a tarp down for ’em and then we pile ’em up
after they’ve been baled and then we cover that so the sun doesn’t fade the coloring on ’em. It works pretty good,
they’re only covered for, you know, a couple weeks
and they’re sold already so it doesn’t take long. A lot of times when that
happens we’ll go out and cut some more and add to the pile or add to our display area in the shed. Another use for some trees is we use the pine boughs for wreaths and we also sell pine balls and evergreens balls for the customer who wants to decorate in
front of their porch or deck and put them in a, we
call ’em a holiday bundle is what we call it, and make ’em that way. – [Mary] I have never seen
a Christmas tree grower and how they shape their trees. Would you be willing to show us that? – [Wayne] I sure can. – [Mary] Good. – It’s the season so
that’s what we’re doin’. (gentle instrumental music) So Mary, before I show you
how we shear our trees, I would like to show you
that pick pine cones. And the reason for picking or
plucking the pine cones off of balsams here, we have to
get rid of the pine cones because it just makes
for a more beautiful tree for Christmastime and, basically, balsams will produce cones and they get so loaded
that it just makes for an undesirable tree. So we pick the pine cones off so that the energy can go right back
to producing a nice balsam fir. So what I wanna show you is that we pick these pine cones and
we just give ’em a twist and pluck these off. So we like to do it a
little earlier in the year and then they’re a lot easier to break off and less pitch on the pine cones. This is a shearing knife and this is what we use to shape our trees so they look like a
beautiful Christmas tree. It’s a serrated knife, stainless steel. It’s called a Bush King
and we just go ahead and start shearing with this. I use one knife, one arm. Some people use both hands
and both have a knife in both arms but I’m
not quite that good so I just use one. So here we go, this is how we shear ’em, I try to get the right
pitch that I like to see and I just go ahead and start shaping it. And this is not gonna
hurt the tree at all. And it just gives it that extra shape and then when we do shear it, it will get two more buds on the ends and get thick again for next year. (gentle instrumental music) – I have a question. I’m thinking of starting an herb garden and I’m wondering if you
have a recommendation of herbs I should try. – Well this is a real
good start right here in our beginning kitchen garden. And we have several items here, we have perennials and annuals, you can purchase them
all at the garden center. And we can start out with sage. Sage is a great thing to have
in your garden to cook with. And rosemary is another
item that’s fun to cook with and it has a beautiful fragrance. The only thing about rosemary, it’s a perennial in California but we have to take it
in into the greenhouses in the winter and then we winter it over and then we pull it
back out and replant it. We have several types of
basil, all different types, about nine or eight
different types of basil. Again, you can make pesto out of basil, you can make a parsley basil pesto. Parsley would be another one
I would add to the garden, it’s quite easy, can just clip it off and put it in your salads. And then we have chives. Chives, again, is a perennial and you have it all the
time, every season you come there it is. And we have oregano, oregano
is another nice perennial that comes up every year. And you have an instant
garden for the first season. And you could do another
way of gardening with herbs, you can put ’em in pots on your stairs or on your deck. And they do need full sun and
they need water every day. Herbs are very hardy but
they like the full sun and a lot of water. – [Narrator] Ask the Arboretum Experts has been brought to you by the
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, dedicated
to enriching lives through the appreciation
and knowledge of plants. – This is sure a lot different conditions than when we were here this summer, it’s a lot colder and windier. But what additional
trees do you have on hand for sale now that you didn’t
have to show us this summer? – We provide Fraser and
we provide balsam trees, we provide white pine, Scotch pine, spruce and Black Hills spruce. – [Mary] Do all of those grow around here or do you get some of those in? – [Wayne] The only ones
we get in are the Frasers although we do bring in some
white pine and some balsam. – [Mary] I’ve sometimes
heard that the Frasers are kinda the Cadillac
of the Christmas tree. What’s the difference
between them and a balsam? – [Wayne] Frasers have a dark green and a little blue hue to ’em and they’re rounded needles
all the way around the branch and they’re very dense and heavy. Where the balsam is a little lighter tree, they are generally a
green to a dark green hue with flat needles and
mostly kind of a flat sided. – [Mary] Wayne, do most of your customers, when they come in, do
they wanna cut their own or do they wanna pick a tree
that you’ve already cut? – [Wayne] You know,
that’s a good question. Most of the time it’s kind
of half and half for us. We’ll get, during the
day we’ll get families that have little children
and they wanna experience the cutting of their own and
so they go out with a sled and they cut their own tree. Some couples that just want
a quick, get it over with, they come into our building
and just go pick a tree and out the door they go. – Thank you, thank you.
– Yeah. – [Mary] Wayne, if you
have customers that come in and wanna cut their own
tree, walk us through how they do that because
you’ve got this beautiful, big area so how do they know where to go? How do they cut it and how
do they bring it back in? – Well, they usually
come in and they’ll ask what kind of tree they would like. Sometimes they want a big tree. We’ve sold 12 foot trees that they want for their foyer or living room. And some people just want
small white pine or Scotch pine so we kinda just point
’em in the direction of where those varieties are. – [Mary] If people don’t
come here to get a fresh tree and just go to another lot or to a greenhouse or garden
center, how can they tell if the trees that they’re
looking at are fresh? – [Wayne] Well, generally you
can tell by lookin’ at ’em, they’re dark green and dense and they weigh nice and heavy, when you shake ’em there’s no
real heavy loss of needles. And then I just go along
and pull on the branches and open up my hand and
if I’ve got needles in ’em that kinda tells me they’re dry but generally we don’t have that problem. – [Mary] That’s a good way for
people to be able to check. What are the benefits of
people using a real tree as compared to an artificial tree? – Real trees are fresh. They have a very good fragrance. People like a good old-fashioned Christmas and they wanna make it
rememorable for their kids and so a real tree just brings
out the Christmas, I think. Artificial, well, that’s
kind of fake isn’t it? (laughing) – I’ve actually heard that the real trees are better for the environment too because they provide so much benefit while they’re being grown and they’re kind of like
a crop that harvested just like wheat and another. – [Wayne] Right, it’s a
completely recyclable item because it grows, it produces oxygen, it
takes in carbon dioxide and good for the area. – [Mary] When people come and get a tree, do you sometimes wrap it
for them too, or bundle it? – Yes, we will wrap it. When I get the pre-cuts
they’re already wrapped. We untie ’em and then we set ’em up and then price ’em based on their size and their color and their type. And when we sell the tree to the customer, we ask ’em if they want it to be netted and we have a netting machine
that we run it through and it makes it convenient to
put on the top of their car and bring it into the house. And then there they just
put it in their stand and then cut that netting off and voila, the tree just kinda unfolds
right in front of ’em and it’s all done. – And then some places
shake their trees too, can you describe what that
is or what that means? – [Wayne] Yes, we’ll put
a tree into the shaker and we just set it into,
it’s basically called the Lil Shakee and it shakes the tree and if there’s any loose needles or any dry needles or any
kind of thing like that it falls off and it’s nice and fresh and ready for the customer. And we also give ’em a
fresh cut on the bottom so that it’s all ready to
absorb moisture or water when they get it in the
house and in the stand. – Why is that important? Because some people, you
know, will get a tree that’s been cut and why is it
important to make a fresh cut? – Because it gives it a area for the water to seep into the tree and it absorbs all the
moisture that it can and like the first three days it’s moving a lot of moisture to
replace what it has been missing for the last, maybe, three days or so. – [Mary] Is there kind of a rule of thumb as to how much you should cut off in order to make that new, fresh cut so the tree can absorb moisture? – [Wayne] Yeah, they say that
it’s about a two-inch cut that you’d like to make. We can cut, you know, between
an inch, inch and a half to two inches but
basically for a fresh cut you wanna take that much off. – Wayne, are there
things that you recommend to add to the water or to do things to keep the tree fresher in the house? ‘Cause I’ve heard lots of
different old wives’ tales and I don’t know if they’re true or not. – Well that’s true, we do sell a product that you can add to the tree, it helps to open the pores to allow moisture to absorb
into the tree quicker. We do sell a lot of it seems like it must work
’cause we’ve sold many many bottles of that additive.
(laughing) – [Mary] Well I’ve heard,
you know, adding aspirin to the water and maybe
even pop to the water. But you just recommend either plain water or adding the special
additive made for it, huh? – Yes, I do. My son actually did a
science project in school when he was in high school and he did that comparison with trees and he found out that the
additive worked quite well and also, I believe it was 7UP was second best and then
(laughing) the other things like
aspirin was the worst and couple other things that he tried, I can’t remember ’em all, but he did try like five different additives to see which one worked the best. – Wayne, some people
don’t like to have mess taking a tree in and out
but there’s such a thing even as a bag that you can use to help to keep it clean, right? – Yes, yes, we also sell
Christmas tree removal bags and we do go through a lot of those too and what they do is they’ll
just put that under their tree when they bring it into the house and set it up on the
stand, they might make a little small slit and
put that trunk through it and then they’ll just roll it up over the Christmas tree stand and still allow room to water the tree. And then when it’s all
done, the season’s over, they can just take their stand off and roll that bag right up
through the Christmas tree and carry it out and
there’s no hassle, no mess and everybody’s happy. – When you make a cut or cut on the trees a lot
of times you have to take some of the bottom branches
off and everything. Do you use some of those trees for decorating or to make other things? – [Wayne] Yeah, those branches get used. We offer it to the customer first, if they don’t want to take
those branches we will use those and trim ’em up and
make wreaths and garland and other centerpieces
and things like that out of those branches. We also bring in a lot
of that kind of material when we buy our trees and
set ’em up for display. – [Mary] So you do make
wreaths and arrangements too? – [Wayne] Yes, Mary, we
sell a lot of wreaths and garland and things like that and we sell it in our
showroom, our gift shop. We keep some in cool storage
and we have it all displayed out where they can pick out a wreath. Some are large some are small. We have swags and things of that nature, centerpieces, we even have headstone wreaths that can be
attached to the headstone and mailbox covers. Many different arrangements
that they can pick out and I’m sure it’ll please someone and all people.
(chuckling) – [Mary] Thanks, Wayne, for letting us see your beautiful place and
your beautiful trees. – [Wayne] Well I enjoyed the interview and I enjoyed showing you my place and hope you can come again
and get a Christmas tree at Wayne-N-Jean’s Evergreens. (gentle instrumental music) – [Narrator] Funding for
Prairie Yard & Garden is provided in part by
Heartland Motor Company, providing service for over 30 years in the heart of truck country. Heartland Motor Company, we have your best interests at heart. Farmers Mutual Telephone
Company and Federated Telephone Cooperative,
proud to be powering Acira. Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen in honor of Shalom Hill
Farm, a non-profit rural education retreat center in
a beautiful prairie setting near Windom in southwestern Minnesota. Shalom Hill Farm, ShalomHill.org. Diamond Willow Advanced
Care Assisted Living, providing custom homes
with smaller settings designed especially for high-care needs. (gentle instrumental music)

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