In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have begun to start new Christmas traditions at home, one of these being the purchase and installation of a real Christmas tree for the holiday season.
But many families are left to wonder what to do with a 7-foot tall tree once Christmas is done. AY About You is here with some ideas to help you dispose of your tree in creative (and even charitable) ways.
Compost and Mulch
You can turn your tree into compost or turn it into mulch for your garden. Mulch can help treat soil compaction. Additionally, mulch can prevent soil erosion that usually occurs after heavy rains. Spreading mulch around the roots of your plants, especially more delicate flowers, can also prevent the ground from becoming frozen in cold spells. In order to turn your Christmas tree into mulch, you’ll put your tree and its branches through a wood chipper/shredder (you can find one at most home improvement stores or even on Amazon). Then, take the wood chips and spread them around the base of your plants. However, use pine needles in mulch sparingly, as they are harder to break down naturally.
To compost your Christmas tree, you can add leftover mulch into a bin with other biodegradables, such as leaves, banana peels, eggshells, animal manure and other nitrogen-rich ingredients. Your Christmas tree compost should be ready between three and eight months, depending on whether you choose to do hot or cold compost.
If you decide to mulch your Christmas tree, you’ll quickly realize that the trunk tends to be too thick to compost. Instead, you can turn the leftover trunk of your Christmas tree into a chair, small side table or open fire pit.
Also, you can make your own potpourri to make any room smell like the holidays. Collect a few of your Christmas tree’s pine branches and cut off chunks from your tree’s trunk. Then gather cinnamon sticks, cloves, raw cranberries and other holiday fruits and spices.
Put your tree trunk pieces in a shallow, heat-proof bowl, filled up halfway with water. Add the other ingredients that you’ve collected to the water. Put in a warm spot, such as on top of a wax warmer or in a pot on top of the stop. As the water warms, the scent of a natural Christmas potpourri will fill your home.
Replant or Recycle
If you’d like to reuse your tree for next year, it’s also possible to replant your Christmas tree. Most evergreen trees are incredibly resilient, even if the roots have been cut off to provide a flat base. Simply repot or plant your tree in the soil with plenty of water, and the trunk should begin to grow roots again.
The Arkansas Arboretum at Pinnacle Mountain State Park also takes donated Christmas trees to turn into compost, according to previous reports made by the organization. Other trees that are donated help to slow erosion and provide shelter for small animals.
Animal Habitat and Bird Feeder
Many animals, even with a biological heating system, would prefer a shelter to wait out the wind and the cold. A Christmas tree planted in a more secluded part of the garden or backyard can provide shelter for any birds and squirrels and chipmunks that might have popped out for food. It’s important to make sure that the tree-turned-animal shelter is tethered firmly in place to withstand the wind.
But Christmas trees aren’t only used for aboveground habitats.
For the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, retired Christmas trees make excellent habitats and spawning nests for aquatic life all across the Natural State.
“The trees are an important component to the materials used to create sunken habitat for fish,” says Spencer Griffith, the AGFC’s assistant chief of communications. “Our staff and volunteers will use the trees, along with cinder blocks, baling wire or parachute cord. Under the direction of deputy director Chris Racey and fisheries chief Ben Batten, our Fisheries Management Division has been focusing on major habitat projects both at a regional and statewide level on an annual basis. They have both made it a priority for the regional fisheries districts to implement large-scale habitat improvement projects on AGFC managed lakes annually in each district. Beyond that, the team comes together from across the state to put all of their manpower against several large habitat projects as a combined team.”
Jeremy Risley, an AGFC regional fisheries biologist in Mountain Home, says that the primary benefit of the brush pile attractors is for anglers. The brush piles offer species that are considered “baitfish” places to hide, while offering predatory fish, such as bass and crappie, places to ambush.
The AGFC has drop-off locations across the state to leave your tree.
Additionally, in most years, you can donate your living Christmas tree to the Little Rock Zoo. Many animals love the natural scenery, while some animals, such as goats, prefer to take a bite out of Christmas trees instead. Other animals, like elephants, use the Christmas tree limbs as toys and to clean themselves.
While the pandemic has changed the Little Rock Zoo’s normal course of operations, Joy Matlock, director of marketing and development at the Zoo, was able to offer an alternative.
“Unfortunately because of the pandemic, the Zoo will not be receiving Christmas trees from the public,” Matlock says. “However, the Zoo would accept trees from sellers whose trees had not been in an enclosed area.”
Finally, Christmas trees can act as the support for animal and bird feeders, both natural and artificial.
Make sure that your Christmas tree is firmly planted outside before hanging any feeders in it. For more natural feeders, you can attach a string to a pine cone and cover it in peanut butter and bird seed. You can also halve an orange, scoop out its insides, thread it, and fill the hollowed-out half with bird seeds. You can thread popcorn and decorate the tree like an edible tinsel for wild animals, and you can also halve fruits and decorate your tree with them using string.