Our farm work during the Year
Our farm work is family work
All members of the Kelleher family play an active part in our farm work, in between the demands of study.
The farm is located in Co. Kildare overlooking the West Wicklow Hills. Its soil is part of the Kennycourt soil series of Ireland. These soils are mildly acidic and free-draining. As a result, the conditions are perfect for producing slow growing bushy Christmas trees.
Our farm work – seedlings
Each year we plant a new crop of Christmas tree seeds. These seeds produce seedlings that must be lined out in beds. They are less than 10 cm in height. Therefore, they must be carefully nurtured and protected for three years before they can be planted in the open field.
One very important part of our farm work each year is the planting of 3-yo plants. In March when the soil has begun to dry, Martin prepares the ground for planting.
He chooses 3-year old plants from the seedbed very carefully. And, he takes great care to plant them correctly. This ensures that the plants get off to a good start. It will take at least another 8 years before they grow sufficiently to exceed 2-meters in height as mature Christmas trees. Thus, it takes a total of 11 years for a normal Christmas tree to grow from the seedling stage. Growing these trees is a process of patience and time.
Pruning is another important part of our farm work. It is essential to do some pruning of Christmas trees as they grow. This ensures that our Christmas trees will fit neatly into the corner of our customers sitting rooms.
We begin pruning Christmas trees when they have been growing in the field for about six years and are more than 1 metre in height. This skilled operation is done in July, as soon as the Christmas trees have put on their new growth. The trees that Darragh is pruning here are about 1.5 metre in height and may be pruned again each year.
Christmas trees grow much more slowly than weeds. Therefore, Christmas tree growing is a constant battle between the weeds and the grower, who is trying to protect his trees.
Weeds, if left to grow unhindered, would cause serious problems for Christmas tree quality. This is because they compete for nutrients and water from the soil. Also, they shade the lower branches of the trees and cause poor needle growth and needle loss. Willowherb, brambles, nettles and gorse are the most serious weeds. Therefore, we have no option but to spray or mechanically remove these weeds.
Tagging and Counting
In August we begin the pleasant task of tagging and counting those Christmas trees that are suitable for our discerning customers. We only include those that are over 1.5 metre in height. The weather is normally sunny and warm and the days are long. So, it is nice to be out working among the trees. Also, our year’s work is nearly done and Christmas is not far away. Come September, our wholesale customers will be anxiously ringing up to find out how many trees we have for sale in each species and size. We need to have orders in by early October. In this way we can organise our trucking schedule in order to avoid disappointments.
Choose & Cut
In early December, we open our farm for Choose & Cut sales. This has become very popular in the past five years. Some people come from as far away as Waterford and Athlone, but our main customers are from within a radius of 20 miles. For more information on Choose & Cut, click here.
Usually in late November and early December, we cut, bale and palletize any trees destined for the wholesale market. At that time of the year, the days are short and the weather is usually cold and wet. Consequently, the work is more difficult and unpleasant than in the long warm Summer days. However, it must be done regardless of the weather or inconvenience. On-time delivery is important.