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PHOTO: Kevin Fogle
After next week, many of you will be faced with a common dilemma: what to do you with your Christmas tree. Owners of plastic artificial trees can pack their trees away for the next holiday season, but what about the millions who bought cut pine, spruce or fir trees? The following are some green ideas to keep cut trees out of the landfill and help make Christmas trees a renewable crop by giving old trees a second life.
1. Christmas Tree Mulching
For many folks, the simplest option is grinding your old Christmas tree into mulch. Many cities and towns have mulching programs that collect trees via curbside pickup on announced days or offer centralized drop-off sites. Mulch is then used for city beautification projects or on facilities such as playgrounds. Some cities even offer their mulch for sale, so that individual homeowners can take advantage of this green product. If your municipality doesn’t offer a mulching program, ask around for the popular neighbor who owns a wood chipper and make your own.
2. Trees as Wildlife Habitat
A Christmas tree can make a very useful habitat for a range of animal life, including birds, small mammals and freshwater fish. The easiest method is placing your Christmas tree in your backyard and staking it upright, so that birds and mammals can take shelter from winter weather and predators. If having your old tree in the yard for a few months doesn’t sound appealing, some dedicated regional programs exist where trees are collected for use in larger wildlife preserves. Freshwater fish can also take advantage of your old Christmas tree if you place it in a large pond or lake for use as nesting habitat—but be sure to get permission from the public jurisdiction or landowner before doing this.
3. Branches in the Garden
The branches from your Christmas tree can be put to use in the garden, protecting cold-sensitive overwintering perennials. Just cut the limbs off your Christmas tree with loppers or a saw and then lay several branches gently over your perennials to help insulate them from the coldest weather of the year. The remaining tree trunk can be then be set aside for mulching.
As an important final note, double and triple check your tree for any remaining light strands or ornaments, as these plastic and metal items should not end up in a farm pond or ground up in a mulch pile.