The Monday morning panic call is becoming a norm…
Customer: “Good morning, I need several 4-inch caliper trees and we need them tomorrow to finish the job.”
LCN: “Good morning, let me check our inventory for what’s available.”
C: What are the chances of picking them up today?
L: Well, I have tree left at the dock, but it’s 2.5” and then I have several trees at 4” that can be dug for pick up. I can check the dig schedule…
C: I said several for today…
This call has become the norm in our instant society. But someone forgot the tell the trees they need to “keep up with the times” and become instant! A majestic tree will take years to cultivate and bring to the market. The space taken to grow a tree isn’t easily changed once they are in cultivation. I thought I would walk you through the life cycle of a tree:
Year 1: Sales and production teams collaborate to decide what and how many plants should be grown. We then give the plan to our buyer in hopes that our dreams and expectations can become the future. He’s prepared with spreadsheet of botanical names, sizes, and the schedule of when we should have the plants ready for sale.
At LCN we propagate approximately 80% of our own stock. Unfortunately, tree production is not one of those options. We take our own graft/bud wood of several LCN Selections and send them to our west coast partners to get the liners possible.
Year 2: The west coast growers are ready for the scion wood so our production team collects the optimal amount to assure the sales goals can be met. The wood is then shipped overnight to the nursery. Have you ever shipped a package across the country? It can cost $150-250 for a small box that contains 100 buds to start new trees! (yes, that $1.50-2.50 per bud just in shipping. We with labor to added to the cost)
The west coast nursery receives our package and gets to work to make new trees! Let’s back up about 2 years. They have been growing the understock for the selected tree to be grafted/budded. So really, what I consider Y2 of the new tree is Y3 or Y4, yes, it’s complicated so let’s stick with Y2 to keep it simple.
Year 3- Before this time the trees have been grown in a “liner bed”, with spacing of 6-10 inches apart. The trees will be lifted and transplanted into the fields to give their roots ample soil to develop correctly.
Year 4- The trees will continue to develop and now it’s time to train the central leader. They are left in the field to grow but crews have been staking, watering, fertilizing and controlling pests.
Year 5- The crews continue with the cultural practices in place but this year they add a step, root pruning and structural trimming to establish branching. In the fall the trees will be lifted as a bareroot specimen, graded and stored for the winter in a temperature-controlled building. This gives the crews time to process orders to ship the following spring.
Year 6- Finally, in the spring the trees are loaded onto a semi and shipped back to Lake County Nursery where our process begins. Once they arrive at our nursery, they go into a temperature-controlled building where our production team will inspect the liners overall size and appearance. The trees will then go to the field or go into a container; this is a quick process as the trees head to their destinations within 3-5 days.
Once they are taken to the fields and planted, we will stake the trees, water, fertilize, control any pests (including and not limited to bugs, disease, deer, rodents and thieves)
Year 7- The trees will continue to grow, and production will add trimming to the steps. They will go out several times thru the year to “tape” the leader to the stake to unsure the central leader is strong and healthy.
Year 8- Same process continues and by now sales have walked the fields several times and are getting excited and talking with customers about the crop that will be ready for the fall harvest. Sales tends to push production to release the trees so they can meet the customer’s needs.
LCN will harvest trees in Y8-10 as our production team begins the process over again. I was asked how do you forecast what to grow? Good question, with the amount of time it takes to produce a tree the forecast process can be difficult. It’s very slow but worth the outcome when you see our trees in yards for generations to come!
In conclusion, I would say when you add together the amount of land, the care we have taken to grow trees for years: a 2-inch caliper tree costs of $175 is not expensive at all! Trees are not a commodity items, trees are a necessity item… all the health benefits we get from trees outweigh the initial cost of growing them.