When the glow of the holidays is fading and pine needles begin to cover the floor, it’s time to re-purpose or recycle your Christmas tree.
Roughly 27 million live Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year and the most popular destination of a post-holiday tree is the community mulch pile. Many cities and towns offer curbside pick-up with the final destination a mulching center instead of a landfill.
Make sure that your Christmas tree is destined for the community mulch pile, and not for a landfill – it’s an incredible waste of a great asset. If your community doesn’t offer curbside pickup for mulching (or recycling in some other manner), and if you can’t drive the tree to a composting center, here are a few ideas on how to re-purpose your pine in your own backyard.
Even if you live on a small property, you can place your former Christmas tree at the edge of your yard or garden to create a small wildlife habitat. Birds, rabbits, squirrels and other small animals take shelter among the pine boughs during storms and some may even build nests there. Add an extra incentive for birds by sprinkling bird seed in and around the tree.
Pine boughs make excellent winter mulch for tender plants. Just cut a few from the tree and lay them over any tender plants for the duration of the winter. Pine boughs are also an excellent way to cover raised garden beds for the winter.
Ground or chipped pine needles, twigs and branches make an excellent mulch for your garden. If you don’t have a wood chipper/shredder, use a hand pruner to trim the branches from the tree and scatter them where needed in your garden. The needles will eventually dry and fall off and work their way into the soil, helping to retain soil moisture. Pine needles also encourage growth of mycorrhizal fungi, which assist your plants’ roots in taking up water and nutrients. When the branches of the boughs dry out, break them into small pieces and leave them lay as mulch.
Trunks and heavier branches of old Christmas trees can serve a multitude of other uses, like:
- decorative elements in your garden
- teepee for a bean trellis
- holding up row covers
- supports for large flowering plants
- the base for a new compost pile
- an erosion barrier to re-route or hold back water
Birds and fish can benefit
Near Barrington, Illinois, the Heron Rookery at Baker’s Lake uses up to 400 recycled Christmas trees every year to attract Great Blue Herons, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets and Cormorants. The birds use the trees as nesting material.
In many states and counties, the US Army Corps Of Engineers in association with local state agencies uses unsold and recycled Christmas trees to create habitat and shelter for fish in freshwater ponds and lakes. That’s an outstanding use of a natural resource which otherwise would have been wasted in a landfill. And of course it makes local anglers really happy.