It can keep on giving
Christmas is rapidly approaching and you may or may not have chosen a tree for your home yet. This story is for the proponents of using real trees. For one thing, you know that they absolutely have more character than an imitation one could ever have and there’s just something about having the real thing, the shape, the smell… it conjures the joyous spirit of ol’ holidays past. It serves us well as a beautiful decoration and is beloved.
It would be great if you could keep the same tree all year round, but they do die unfortunately. Still, I never getting over the heartbreaking sight of seeing a Christmas tree lying on a curb, stripped bare as it awaits an unceremonious end. As an overly sensitive kid, I felt a sense of guilt and neglect over feeling that we just used our tree up and threw it out. They were deep emotions to experience as a small child seeing streets lined with discarded trees. But after all, they were the center of attention just days before.
And although the time that it is responsible for holiday cheer comes to pass, there is now enough information out there to give us good reason to save the tree from the curb. It can serve to be useful even beyond the holidays. It’s time to recycle!
The easiest method of recycling come courtesy of local municipalities that collect the trees after the holidays and later use them to improve soil, create paths and even stabilize waterways (among other things). Simply search “Christmas tree pickup” online to see what’s available for your area.
If such a service isn’t available, take comfort in the knowledge that there are also likely ‘drop off zones’ for the few weeks after Christmas at which you can donate your old trees. There they are put through a chipper and broken down to make top quality mulch that is used in parks and school yards. In some areas the new mulch can actually be used as a fuel source (the chips are burned providing energy for power plants).
Or, you can just take matters into your own hands. You can turn your Christmas tree into mulch, for starters. It may be the most popular way of reusing them, chopping it up and letting it serve the shrubs and trees. When it decomposes from mulch form it releases nutrients into the soil. It’s also popularly used for topping garden pathways as natural ground covering from which you may also enjoy a prolonged pine scent in the surrounding air.
Another thing you can do is shake your tree as ruggedly as possible over your garden bed, freeing all of the needles loose to the ground. As they are somewhat acidic, spreading them around your plants can benefit their later health because they will eventually break down and help the pH of alkaline soils.
And you can leave the trees intact as well. By doing so it could help control soil erosion. In coastal areas affected by hurricanes full size discarded trees are actually used on the beach to help reduce severe sand dune erosion. They even help to create new sand dunes as they are gradually covered. Additionally, they are used along the coastal areas of New Jersey to help deter saltwater movement into the freshwater areas.
Of course you could always remove the branches from the tree and use the trunk to help line a pathway. The smaller branches can go in a mulch pile. That mulch is put to good use as surface material for those pathways as well.
Trees can even serve the environment under water. When submerged they can protect smaller fish and provide ideal places for them to lay eggs. In fact, they’re good for nearly a decade in such an environment. There are municipalities that literally create fish friendly habitats using Christmas trees, but get permission before just dumping yours into a lake or creek. It could already be too crowded underneath the surface and adding to it would defeat any purpose of being environmentally friendly.
Of course, you may prefer to help our little feathered friends. Set the tree in the backyard and let the birds and other small animals make their home or just play among the branches. You might even decide to remove the branches and carefully place them around your delicate plants that might use a bit of protection from snowdrifts. With their decomposition, the nutrients of the dead branches seep into the soil and will serve to enrich your plants.
So you see, the holiday spirit of your Christmas tree may actually extend a lot further past the holiday season. What good cause will your tree serve to contribute to?