• By Wendi Hartup
  • Posted Monday, December 13, 2010

Ways to Reuse Christmas Trees

If you bought a real tree this year for the holidays, there a variety of ways you can reuse it that will be beneficial to nature and you. Be sure to remove all the decorations and tinsel first.

Many cities will provide a drop-off location for your tree or provide curbside pick of trees. Contact your local municipality for exact dates of tree pickup. This usually goes to the yard waste landfill to be composted.

If you have a fireplace or wood stove you can use the tree’s trunk and large branches as firewood. Cut the trunk into appropriate lengths for burning and stack under a waterproof tarp. This will allow for good air circulation and proper drying. Just beware that most blue spruce, pine, other evergreen species and conifer species tend to spark and pop more than hardwoods, as resin pockets in the wood make tiny explosions. Avoid burning needles and small branches because they can ignite too easily and cause chimney fires.

Try using your Christmas tree boughs for protecting perennial flower and fruit plants. Cut the branches from the tree, and place them over strawberry plants, spring-flowering bulbs and perennials. You may have to anchor them down in windy places. The branches make good mulches themselves or can be used to help hold your mulches in place. The branches also help catch and hold snow over the plants. Snow is a great insulator and helps protect plants over winter. Evergreen needles are also good mulch for plants.

Make a Christmas-scented potpourri by mixing equal amounts of balsam or pine needles, bayberry leaves, a few drops of pine-scented oil, and pinecones with orrisroot, a fixative that absorbs the scent. You can find orrisroot and oils at herbal shops, many pharmacies and craft stores.

Shred and chip your Christmas tree for compost and/or mulch. Wood and bark chips make excellent mulches and help conserve water, moderate soil temperatures and provide some weed control. Then, when chips rot, they improve the soil. If you don’t want to go to all that effort you can toss your tree onto the compost pile but keep in mind that it will take up to ten months to fully decompose.

If you have very few trees in your yard and you would like to see more wildlife, your Christmas tree can provide additional habitat. Simply lay your Christmas tree on its side, tie it to another tree or stand it upright either in the corner of your yard or near the bird feeders. You might even ask some of your neighbors for their Christmas trees so they will resemble a small forest. This provides shelter from predators and helps reduce the wind chill making birds more likely to visit feeders. If you want to provide an attractive food source throughout the winter for all types of wildlife, pour melted peanut butter and bird seed over the branches at different heights, place strings of popcorn or cranberries, hang orange slices, peanut butter-packed pinecones, or suet balls filled with seed and other feed.

If you own a pond you can sink your Christmas tree in a pond to improve fish habitat and fishing. Tie the base of your tree to a cinder block with a short, stout rope, and toss it in. If you mark the spot with a homemade buoy by first tying a closed, but empty plastic bottle to the tree with a length of twine, you’ll know the best place to fish next summer! The tree branches provide substrate for water plants to grow and shelter for small aquatic life. Larger fish, like bass, are attracted to the shade and the presence of prey.

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