For Tracy Pell, a fourth-generation farmer in Somers, a family history in agriculture and selling Christmas trees has taught her all she needs to know about providing healthy trees for a cherished holiday tradition.
One of the biggest lessons from Pell Farms: Christmas trees don't need too much help to turn out right.
"We trim the trees about once a year to maintain their shape," Pell said. Each tree follows its "leader branch," more commonly known as the branch that holds the Christmas tree topper, to grow into its traditional shape.
Pell added that her family is sometimes extra vigilant with trimming in order to keep the number of mature trees at a manageable number. Fir Christmas trees grow at about a foot per year, and there are fields of trees in various states of maturity on the farm.
It takes about six to seven years before a tree is ready to sell, although Pell Farms has a few that have grown to 9 to 11 feet in height, Pell said.
But beyond yearly trimmings, Pell explained that she and her family simply elevate the rows of trees, since they don't do well in wet soil. Otherwise, the holiday centerpieces grow with relatively little help.
The Pell family recommends that buyers cut off a bit of the trunk after taking the Christmas tree home, since this helps the tree take in more water. She also suggests that families check the water level daily.
Buyers who take home potted trees (Pell Farms sells white and blue spruce) should follow more detailed care instructions. Pell Farms recommendations are attached above as a PDF.
Pell Farms has been in the Pell family since the early 1900s. It began as a dairy farm, but also produces strawberries, pumpkins and Christmas trees.
The majority of their trees are Firs, which Pell says have soft needles with strong branches to hold ornaments, as well as good needle retention.
Buyers can buy pre-cut trees, or can saw down their own.
Trees up to 8-feet high cost $40 and are $50 up to 11 feet.
Pell Farms is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located on Kibbe Grove Road in Somers. Visit the farm's Web site for contact information.