RED WING -- By the time the end of April arrives in the Midwest, thoughts of blooming flowers, campfires and the sweet smell of grass fill people's minds. Christmas is a far off moment for almost everyone. But for Mark Bloom, April means Christmas trees.

Bloom owns Mark's Choose and Cut in Red Wing. Most people visit his business between Thanksgiving and Christmas eve, but the arborist is frequently out caring for thousands of trees.

Early spring is the time for planting. This year Bloom will plant about 1,300 evergreen saplings in newly established fields and in fields where trees were cut for Christmas last year.

Mark Bloom demonstrates how to plant trees with an auger. Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
Mark Bloom demonstrates how to plant trees with an auger. Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
On Saturday, April 18, Bloom began the planting process. He quickly ran into an issue when he realized that the tractor he was going to use to pull equipment to dig holes was not powerful enough. While he waited for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to deliver a more powerful tractor, Bloom planted trees the old school way: using an auger.

Today an auger is usually only used for planting second-generation trees in established fields. It takes a lot more time to dig with an auger than a tractor.

"I can dig 30 holes and plant 30 trees in about 40 minutes," said Bloom when talking about using an auger. While it takes Bloom just over one minute to dig a hole and plant a tree, that time adds up quickly when there are 1,300 trees to plant. It would take about 28 hours to plant all the saplings without the tractor. This is on top of the time that it takes to prepare the field, measure rows and prepare the trees.

After a tree is harvested for Christmas, Mark Bloom plants young trees alongside the stump to replenish established fields. Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
After a tree is harvested for Christmas, Mark Bloom plants young trees alongside the stump to replenish established fields. Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
Aside from the time that the tractor and automatic hole digger save Bloom, they also put less stress on his body than the auger. "My shoulders will thank me," Bloom said.

Bloom buys young trees each year. Before planting, the saplings need to be trimmed and the roots need to be cut. Bloom explained that the "green ratio" is important when planting young evergreens. There can't be too much green because then the root system will be stressed if there is a dry period. The trees that Bloom planted had a ratio of about 1 to 1: half of the plant was roots, the other was the portion that is seen above ground.

Young evergreen trees have roots that are about as long as the above ground portion of the tree. Before the trees that Mark Bloom plants begin to grow above ground, they establish strong root systems. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.
Young evergreen trees have roots that are about as long as the above ground portion of the tree. Before the trees that Mark Bloom plants begin to grow above ground, they establish strong root systems. Photo by Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia.

Working as a Christmas tree farmer means constantly preparing for the future -- for this Christmas season and Christmas seasons for years to come. In about 10 years families will cut and decorate the saplings that Bloom is planting this spring.