By Billy Ward II
ANR/4-H Extension Agent
Un-decorating after Christmas can be a bit depressing. The long, cold winter nights are ahead of us, and there is not much to look forward to until Spring. One big question is what to do with the Christmas tree? Each year, 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. There is considerable debate regarding the sustainability of real versus artificial trees, but there are some creative ways to repurpose your former “live” tree in sustainable and enjoyable ways. Mulch from either the limbs or the entire tree will come in handy, and using your old tree as the base for a new compost pile is a great way to start the new year.
Do you enjoy bird watching? Christmas trees make a great winter shelter for birds. Hang bird feeders on it, or spread some peanut butter on the limbs and sprinkle with birdseed. You may end up with squirrels nibbling on the branches, but their antics can be a fun way to spend a cold winter afternoon.
Spent trees can also be used for an active aquatic habitat. The tree’s weight and the branches act as an anchor and can be placed in ponds or even along stream banks for some erosion control. Algae growth among the branches provides food for small fish as well as protection from predators.
Need coasters? The trunk can provide material for next year’s presents. Saw the trunk into thin, approximately 1/2” rounds and let dry before sealing. The coasters will most likely season crack as they age, but it adds to the charm of these “free” and unique household necessities.
If you need to quickly dispose of your tree, why not save it for an Old Christmas bonfire? Old Christmas, sometimes known as Little Christmas, is observed on January 6 and is a throwback to the English and Scots who settled in Appalachia.
For more information on composting, recycling, or wildlife habitat, see us at the extension office at 212 College Street or call 423-727-8161.