Christmas is over and your once-beautiful live tree has reached its post holiday expiration date. You're not quite sure what to do with it, but certainly don't want it sitting in the house for long! Thankfully, there are tons of options to recycle your old Christmas tree in a sustainable manner.
Here are some ideas for sustainable Christmas tree recycling:
Check with your local municipality
to see if they offer a community-sanctioned Christmas tree disposal day. Many cities will offer the opportunity to leave trees at the curb for pickup, often on a particular day during the first week of January. They'll require the tree to be stripped of all ornaments, lights, garland, and tinsel. Generally, the trees will be taken to a compost site and turned into healthy, beneficial compost. While many municipalities offer this as a free service, check to see if there is a fee associated with tree disposal.
Turn your Christmas tree into mulch for your garden.
As is the case with many different types of organic material, an old Christmas tree can be used as mulch in your garden. Simply cut the limbs into 12-inch pieces. Use the pieces as mulch to provide protection from extreme temperatures and hungry critters for the rest of the winter. As the snow melts and your yard turns green again, the mulch will help to suppress weeds by taking away valuable light, acting as nature's weed control. A well-mulched area will also experience less evaporation, causing your soil to retain more moisture, even as the hot, dry months of summer are approaching. Remember that evergreen needles are acidic, and may negatively affect plants that favor alkaline soil. If this is the case, you can add lime to the soil to neutralize the effects of the acidic mulch. Better yet, just use the mulch on acid-loving plants, such as blueberry bushes!
To retain soil moisture, you can also use your old Christmas tree in the practice of hugelkultur. Hugelkultur involves burying piles of wood, and using this as the base for a garden bed. As the wood rots, it will become a host for beneficial fungi and microorganisms. These organisms consume the wood and leave behind fertile soil. As the wood breaks down and becomes spongy, your hugelkultur mound will retain water, reducing the need for watering your plants during the summer. You will obviously need more than a single Christmas tree to build a hugelkultur mound, but it can be one piece of the puzzle! If you use many pine trees, your hugelkultur bed will be the perfect place for acid-loving berries. With a mixture of different types of wood, the pile should become balanced, and be a good planting location for a variety of crops. Just be sure to stay away from certain allelopathic trees, such as black walnut, and trees that do not decompose quickly, such as cedar.
Compost your tree.
If these ideas sound too complicated, your Christmas tree can always go straight into the compost pile. Cut the tree down to manageable sized pieces, depending on the size of your compost container or pile. Mix this with other organic materials, such as manure, leaves, grass clippings, and food scraps. With the right amount of care, organisms from bacteria to worms will go to work breaking down the organic material, turning it into a nutrient-rich, free fertilizer!
If you have an outdoor fire pit, your tree can be repurposed as firewood next summer. Using a chainsaw, remove all of the limbs from the tree, and stack them neatly. Cut the large pieces into 12-inch logs, and split, depending on thickness. Most Christmas trees will not be big enough to require splitting logs. Let the wood dry for the remainder of the winter, leaving it covered in a woodshed, or with a tarp. By the summer, this wood should be dry enough to use in your campfire.
Upcycle your tree!
A Christmas tree should not just be viewed as trash after it has served its purpose. These are just a few tips; the possibilities are endless! While trees can be recycled or composted, they can also be repurposed into bird sanctuaries, landscape edging or flowerpot stands. Using one of these alternatives will keep your tree out of a landfill, and provide benefits for many years.
Find Christmas tree farms in your area.
See our agri-graphic on how to compost.
Laura Holt, for Agrilicious!