The Ottumwa Courier

Community News Network

December 6, 2012

Drought, other factors hinder Christmas trees

OSKALOOSA — Scotch Hill Christmas Trees may be closed this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good.

With drought conditions gripping Iowa for many, many months, it’s not just corn and soybean farmers who’ve been impacted. Diane and Andy Davis’ Scotch Hill Christmas Trees just outside of Oskaloosa is closed for the holiday season because of a lack of trees that were of desirable size.

Diane said the weather conditions over the past year have been “very poor” when it comes to trying to grow Christmas trees. Drought conditions, as well as planting fir trees for the past 10 years or so have also played a role, Diane said. She noted that fir trees don’t grow well on their land and that they plan on sticking with scotch and white trees in the future.

Heavy rainfall about three years ago also had an impact at Scotch Hill Christmas Trees, said Diane. She explained that, with heavy rain, tree roots can’t take to the soil as well.

Every spring, 1,200-1,500 seedlings are planted at Scotch Hill Christmas Trees, said Diane.

Planting and caring for Christmas trees is a year-round process, Diane said. After the spring planting in April, they spend the spring and summer keeping the weeds down and mowing. In June, they typically trim and shape the trees, she said.

This past summer, a watering system was used regularly at Andy and Diane’s tree farm, said Diane. However by August, many of the trees were lost, said Diane.

Diane said 2012 would have been Scotch Hill Christmas Trees’ 15th or 16th year selling trees. The couple started planting the trees back in 1986, she added. When the Davis’ sons, Nick and Ben, were younger, they worked alongside their parents at Scotch Hill Christmas Tree Farm. Diane noted that her sons earned a lot of “sweat equity” for their college funds while working on the farm.

Since 2006, Andy and Diane have participated in the Trees for Troops program, which provides Christmas trees to the families of military personnel. Although they could not participate in the program this year, Diane said they remain grateful for what the U.S. military does for the country.

“There’s no comparison for what they do for all of us as Americans to keep us enjoying our freedoms,” said Diane.

In 2011, Diane and Andy got a chance to meet and take photos with Gov. Terry Branstad in the rotunda of the Iowa State Capital building alongside one of their locally-grown trees. The tree was selected among others used to decorate the capital building.

“That was nice,” Diane said. “That was an honor.”

As far as the future goes, Diane said Scotch Hill Christmas Trees will strive to be open next holiday season. Although they are closed this season, it is not their intent to permanently close Scotch Hill Christmas Trees, Diane said.

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