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Ideas for Recycling Christmas Trees

Recycle by Finding Uses for Them in Your Landscaping

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Natural shelter picture: photo showing christmas tree natural shelter for birds.

Natural cover sends a welcoming message to the wild birds.

David Beaulieu

Recycling Christmas trees is not difficult, and I provide 10 green-living ideas below to get you started. Rather than thinking "disposal" every winter after the holiday, implement these ideas to recycle them and turn them into useful (and free!) landscaping components or decorations.

The simplest idea for recycling Christmas trees is to buy live Christmas trees, rather than cut ones. Live Christmas trees can be planted in the landscape afterwards. And if you really aren't at all interested in a creative solution, another idea is simply to get in touch with a local Christmas tree recycling center.

10 Ideas for Recycling Christmas Trees

But since you're reading this article, I'll assume you've come to learn about some creative ideas for recycling Christmas trees, so here are some thought-provoking alternatives to sending Tannenbaum to the landfill:

  1. Make "winter mulch"
  2. Chip it up to make conventional mulch
  3. Use as "flooring" at the bottom of a compost bin
  4. Build shrub shelters
  5. Use the trunk for garden stakes
  6. Use the trunk to build a rustic trellis
  7. Decorate a window box
  8. Make a kissing ball
  9. Use the needles in a sachet
  10. Use it as cover for wild birds

All of the ideas above assume that you will be cleaning the Christmas tree after you take it down. I.e., strip off all the tinsel, etc., first. Below I elaborate briefly on each of the 10 ideas, grouping them into 4 categories:

Recycling Christmas Trees for Mulch, Compost

By "winter mulch" I'm referring to a heterogeneous mulch applied around perennial flowers to protect them in winter, as opposed to a conventional, homogeneous mulch (such as bark mulch) that you would use in the landscape during the growing season. The winter mulch consists of a base layer (I prefer straw), which is then held down (so the wind doesn't blow it away) by a layer of evergreen branches -- which is where the recycled Christmas tree comes in to play.

If you have a wood chipper, you can run the trunk and branches through it to turn them into a conventional mulch. For use in a compost bin, remove a few of the branches and lay them down as "flooring" for the bottom of your compost bin. This flooring will provide aeration, allowing your compost to break down faster.

Recycling Christmas Trees for Garden Construction Projects

If you're the type who builds your own shrub shelters, garden stakes or rustic trellises out of natural material, you could always use another wooden pole, right? So why not use the trunk of the Christmas tree for this purpose? A store-bought garden trellis may be fine for a small vine, but I make my own trellises for growing hard-shell gourds, for example. Likewise, I can always use another pole with which to stake some of the taller perennials in my cottage garden planting.

Recycling Christmas Trees for Use in Decorations

Fill a window box with sand, then insert the branches (after trimming them down to an appropriate size) into the sand to form a backdrop for the berry clusters of winterberry holly. Or stick the branches into a Styrofoam ball to make a kissing ball. For an indoor decoration, incorporate the aromatic needles into a sachet, as you would with lavender.

Miscellaneous

Install recycled Christmas trees in your yard after the holidays are over, to provide cover for wild birds. Wild birds aren't as likely to come to a bird feeder located out in the open; they prefer natural nooks where they can hide. Providing such cover for them will help you in your efforts to attract birds to your yard. As an added touch, hang suet on the branches (or pinecones rubbed with peanut butter and rolled in bird food).

A Word of Warning

If you wish to burn a recycled Christmas tree as firewood, it's not a good idea to do so right after you take it down. The wood is still wet, posing a fire hazard from creosote buildup. If you wish to burn it in a stove, I would suggest adding it to your woodpile and drying it for a year. Spruces, pines, firs and balsams are softwoods that are useful as kindling.

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