Soon after Christmas is over those who had a real tree for the holidays face the fact that it needs to be taken down. And then the question becomes-“How do I recycle my Christmas tree?” After all you choose a green solution to holiday decorating and you want to keep the disposal options green too. And the good news is that there are many green ways to dispose of your Christmas tree.
Using the Christmas tree in the garden
If you are a gardener the branches of the discarded tree can become protection for your perennials just when they may need it most. With your pruning snips and a pruning saw remove the branches from the tree and lay them over the crowns of exposed plants for protection from the cold. In the spring you can chop up the branches further and put them in the compost pile. The branch-less tree base could become a pole for beans or other plants to climb in the spring.
If you don’t have plants to cover simply cut up the tree and put it in the compost pile. The smaller the pieces the faster it will break down. If you have a chipper run the tree through it and make some wood chip mulch. Don’t worry that needles and tree pieces will make your soil too acidic. It would take a lot of trees to change the soil pH in any way.
Using the Christmas tree for the birds
It used to be a common way to dispose of a Christmas tree, using it to feed and shelter birds. When you stand the tree up outside in a cool, moist environment it will stay nice looking until spring. You can stick it in the ground if it isn't frozen, in a snow pile, or in a big bucket full of water that will hopefully freeze and hold the tree upright. You can also lean the trees against trees in the yard or if you have several Christmas trees, maybe yours and the neighbors, you can tie them together in a teepee shape.
Decorate the tree with popcorn balls, suet balls, chunks of bread strung through with string, apples, and the cranberries you strung to decorate the tree indoors. Some people make a mixture of melted bacon grease or peanut butter and birdseed and pour it over the tree while still warm, letting it harden as it cools on the tree branches. If you place the tree where you can see it from the house you can enjoy the birds enjoying your tree.
Using the Christmas tree for other wildlife
Sinking trees in ponds helps bigger fish hide from predators and gives baby fish a place to hide from bigger fish in the spring. If the pond isn’t frozen simply toss the tree in. If the pond is frozen, just place the tree on the ice where it will sink when the ice melts. Warning- don’t put Christmas trees in your pond if they have been treated with fire retardants, flocking, or any other preservatives because these can harm fish.
Christmas trees can also be piled in wild places on your property to form shelters for rabbits, other small animals and ground nesting birds. Add other brush and fallen tree limbs from winter storms to form the classic brush pile recommended for encouraging wildlife to reside on your property. When putting trees outside for wildlife make sure all tinsel has been removed. Animals sometimes eat this or get tangled in it with disastrous results.
If none of these options work for you many municipalities have special pick ups at curbside soon after the New Year. Or some places have designated drop off spots for Christmas trees where they will be turned into mulch.
What not to do with your Christmas tree
Don’t burn your Christmas tree inside, in a fireplace or wood burning stove. The green wood will give off lots of smoke and cause a creosote build up in chimneys. Burning evergreens may also create popping embers that could start a fire in your home. Many people try to burn Christmas trees in the spring outside, after they have dried out. Dried trees can burn very quickly, even explosively, and can start wildfires in the spring. If you do this use great care not to start an unintended fire.
Don’t toss your tree outside by the curb if you don’t have a designated pick up day or if your garbage hauler won’t take them. They can blow into the road or be placed there by vandals and cause a serious accident. Instead cut them into smaller pieces and put them in lawn waste bags or containers for disposal.
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