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It seems like a rather sad ending for a beautiful Christmas tree to be lying at the curb, stripped of its holiday finery, waiting for the garbage truck to haul it off to the nearest landfill. That is the unfortunate end awaiting many Christmas trees once the holidays are over. But there can be a different end for your tree, one in which it serves a useful purpose that will benefit nature.
Natural Christmas trees, as opposed to artificial trees, continue to be a popular holiday choice, with proponents claiming that there is something about the natural shape and fragrance that can’t be beat.
Now, maybe your natural tree can’t be put away in a box and saved for the next Christmas season once it has been taken down, but thankfully your old tree can be recycled for a variety of uses. Many municipalities collect Christmas trees and use them to improve soil, create paths and stabilize waterways, among other things. Read on to see ways your Christmas tree can find new life. Some you might already know and incorporate in your holiday traditions, but others might be new.
By Noelle Johnson
| December 2016
This slide show is from Houzz, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.
Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting
Chipping old Christmas trees into mulch is perhaps the most popular way to reuse them. The mulch is excellent for use around shrubs and trees, where it preserves soil moisture and moderates temperature. As the mulch slowly decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil. In addition to helping your shrubs and trees, the mulch can also be used as a natural ground covering for garden pathways. For a few months, it will continue to release a fresh pine scent whenever you walk on it.
Many municipalities haul off Christmas trees or offer drop-off sites during the weeks following Christmas. The trees are put through a chipper, which leaves behind a nice wood mulch that is used in parks and around government buildings. Some cities even offer to chip trees for free and let the tree bringers take the mulch home to use in their own gardens.
In some regions Christmas trees may be used as a fuel source once they have been chipped. The chips are burned, helping to provide fuel for power plants.
Santa & Sons
Shake off as many needles from your tree as you can over your garden bed. The needles from Christmas trees are somewhat acidic. If you spread them around plants, they will break down and help to balance the pH of alkaline soils.
Sometimes leaving Christmas trees intact (minus lights, decorations and tinsel) benefits the environment by helping to control soil erosion. In coastal communities where the beaches have experienced severe erosion during hurricanes, Christmas trees are used to prevent sand dunes from eroding and, in many cases, to help create new sand dunes as the sand gradually covers them up. Whole Christmas trees are used along the coastal areas of the South and New Jersey to protect coastal marshes that are susceptible to erosion and to help retard the movement of saltwater into freshwater areas along the coast.
When completely submerged, whole Christmas trees provide protection for small fish and sites where fish can lay eggs; they can last about eight years in the water. Some municipalities create fish-friendly habitats with Christmas trees, but you should ask permission from your local municipality before dumping your own tree into the nearest lake or creek; too many submerged trees can cause problems.
Set your tree out in the backyard, where birds and small mammals will enjoy seeking refuge in its branches. Hang peanut butter–covered pine cones and you’ll enjoy the antics of the wildlife that come to visit.
Instead of chipping your tree, you can remove its branches and place them around and over your delicate perennials and shrubs to provide protection from heavy snowdrifts. As the branches decompose, they will add nutrients to your soil.
Remove the smaller branches so that you are left with ½-inch-wide sections suitable for mounting plant signs on.
The smaller branches of Christmas trees are suitable for adding to your mulch pile. Simply use your hand pruners to cut off 6-inch sections and throw them in the compost pile.
This article is from Noelle Johnson of Houzz.
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