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Christmas tree shortage? Sales brisk this season

Some locations already sold out as demand for trees is hot

Tree branch with ornament
A real fir or cedar is part of many folks' holiday traditions and decor. Sales of Christmas trees have been brisk this year, report Sacramento-area lots and nurseries. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

It’s barely December and already pickings at Sacramento-area Christmas tree lots and nurseries are looking pretty slim.

Are we having a Christmas tree shortage in 2020? Or a COVID Christmas tree run?

Popular sources for holiday trees report brisk demand for their inventory, which started arriving just before Thanksgiving. For example, The Plant Foundry (which offers local delivery) had only one tree left on Dec. 2.

Commercial tree lots throughout Northern California reported sales were 30 percent ahead of last year’s pace. According to the New York Times, some states such as Michigan reported a 50 percent increase.

This increase in demand for real Christmas trees, dropped needles and all, may be tied to the pandemic as families plan to stay home and create holiday memories. Artificial trees also are selling briskly.

Although fresh trees may be sold out soon, there are enough trees to forest our usual holiday decorating, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Most farmed trees sold in the Sacramento area are Oregon grown. But several farms in El Dorado and Placer counties offer choose-and cut trees, which are still in good supply. (Check out the El Dorado County farms here: .) With pandemic precautions in place, those local farms plan to stay open until their inventory is sold.

It takes about 10 years to bring a typical 6-foot tree to market, according to the association. After a glut of farmed trees during the 2008 recession, many farms did cut back on planting seedlings. But that reduction was not enough to create a shortage now.

And what appears to be a shortage may actually be an illusion. The two busiest weekends for selling trees are the two weekends immediately after Thanksgiving, according to the association. An estimated 75 to 90 percent of trees are usually sold by that second Sunday, which was Dec. 6.

So those near empty tree lots may just be normal after all.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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