Growing Christmas trees from seed
If, like many Kiwis, you have bought a live Christmas tree, you may well have met David Watson.
The retired Royal New Zealand Navy man has spent the past nine years carefully tending Christmas trees at his lifestyle block at Okaramio. For the past year now though he has been going the extra step and germinating the trees from seed himself at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology before moving them to his property and planting them in the ground to grow out.
Prior to this, the seedlings were brought in from a nursery in Canterbury.
According to Mr Watson, the trees, Monterey pines (pinus radiata), take around four years to grow to Christmas-tree size, with the first fully Marlborough-grown trees available three years from now.
"I began germinating my own trees after starting a certificate in horticulture at the NMIT, and one of the requirements was to plant seed on a commercial scale," said Mr Watson.
"I took up the course because I already have a strong interest in growing trees and wanted to learn more."
He and his wife, Gene, have been growing the Monterey pines, which are favoured by Kiwis as Christmas trees, since moving to the lifestyle block nine years ago. While they have space for around 1000 trees the business is a side venture. They also run a B & B and keep a herd of 25 alpacas.
"I really enjoy growing the trees. I remember when as a youngster I was a scout going out and cutting trees to sell as Christmas trees for fundraising," Mr Watson said.
Originally from Scotland, he served in the Royal Navy for 10 years. He wanted to live in a country with a better climate than Britain and moved to New Zealand, serving for 20 years in the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Up until this year Mr Watson only knew of one other supplier of Christmas trees in Marlborough.
"Two more have started up now. I started because I saw a distinct lack of supply."
The Marlborough Express