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Christmas tree growers offered hope after rain

Sarah Moss, Wednesday November 14, 2018 - 12:55 EDT
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It is technically still in drought, but a greener Christmas is expected at Oakdale orchard. - ABC

The recent rain in regional New South Wales has raised the hopes of many farmers, greening up their land and facilitating new growth on stock.

Oakdale orchard farmer Lynette Rideout-Keanelly happily reported receiving up to 100mm of rain, which is cheery news for people who celebrate Christmas with a live tree.

"We are in a green drought now," Ms Rideout-Keanelly said.

"We've got good green grass, everything looks lush and lovely but we've had no run-off for the dams.

"So effectively we are still in drought conditions — it just doesn't look like it."

She is still hand-watering trees and has lost many of the smaller ones planted in this year's crop.

"They are still struggling and they will continue to struggle as the heat kicks in, so it's going to cause problems for us down the track," Ms Rideout-Keanelly said.

Christmas message of acceptance

The latest rain event has greened this year's Christmas stock, which is now ready to go.

They have got five, six and seven-year-old trees going out this year.

"These trees are smaller than what we'd expect, they aren't quite as full as what they'd normally be, however they are certainly an adequate Christmas tree," Ms Rideout-Keanelly said.

Because growth rates have been lagging, deficits in the tree are more common which means that no amount of pruning will conjure up that perfect shape.

"People will just have to accept them for what they are," Ms Rideout-Keanelly said.

Tagging trees for a Christmas yet to come

Tagging days on Ms Rideout-Keanelly's farm enable people to visit during the year and tag a tree for a Christmas yet to come.

"We've got quite a lot of tags on trees where people have come in and selected a tree for a Christmas yet to come," she said.

The farm started the season with over 270 tagged trees reserved for use this year and currently have over 480 reserved across the farm.

They do not accept any money outside of the 12 months they are in, so if people are booking a tree for this Christmas, a deposit is taken but bookings ahead of time are obligation-free.

"That way we're not accepting a risk if we do get a major disaster like a bushfire or a really horrendous drought," she said.

During their lifetime the trees are all treated the same way in the paddock, tag or no tag, but Ms Rideout-Keanelly has advice for those who are choosing a tree well in advance.

"Choose a tree with good shape and form, because if it's a small tree now but it has the desired shape of a Christmas tree, that shape can only improve with age," she said.

This years trees are smelling fresh and looking good

It is predicted that this year demand will outstrip supply in the Sydney basin area.

The busiest period is generally the first week in December but due to the drought conditions farmers are suggesting to buy in the second week this year.

Like many tree growers across NSW this farm is in an intense drought area and as a result, this year's Christmas trees may be a paler shade of green, have less growth and more dead leaves pollen sacs or small pinecones and will drink more water after cutting.

Farmers are still encouraging people to be tolerant of what is available and advise patrons to keep topping up the water in the container once the tree goes into their home.


© ABC 2018

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