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Don’t toss your Christmas tree

Pup Bella stands with a reused Christmas tree that provides shelter for animals outdoors. — Submitted Mark Carroll

By Mark Carroll

Live tree? Obviously, you can replant it. If you haven’t had much luck finding live trees, you probably settled for a cut tree. So, what else can we do with Christmas trees that have served their primary purpose? Make sure to remove all tinsel, ornaments and lights, then perhaps one of the uses below will suit your needs.

Shelter for animals

  • Planting dead Christmas trees allows small birds to take cover in the branches when the needles fall off. If you live where you can’t just plant a tree, simply lean it on a wall near your bird feeders; you will surely get some natural entertainment value. Want to go the extra mile? String the tree with popcorn or other bird-friendly treats.
  • Similarly, if you have a pond, put the tree in near the shore to shelter small fish from larger ones.
  • Christmas trees can be used for deep bedding for chickens or other fowl. Generally, this requires a wood chipper to make pine shavings like the ones sold by local pet stores for bedding. A simpler approach might be to lay the tree down first then place additional purchased bedding on top.

Create better garden soil

  • You can bury the tree allowing bacteria and fungi to break the tree down into soil.
  • Biochar can be created by burning the wood. It takes a little more effort and education to make biochar, but it is a worthwhile amendment to your garden.
  • Chip it — this will create wood chips, which can be a fantastic mulch for your plants.
  • Add your tree to your compost? It will take a lot longer to break down than most of the items you put in your compost, but it can be done. You may want to chip it first.

Other uses

  • In the image above. I chose to decorate my corner fence post with it, and my dog Bella is disappointed her favorite dig spot is inaccessible.
  • Feed it to pigs, goats or other animals. It is important to know what your livestock can and cannot eat. Be careful if your tree has added chemicals for preservation.
  • Traction control — In ice or mud, Christmas trees can provide additional traction under car or truck tires.
  • Air freshener — placing some pine needles in a sock or wrapped up in some fabric, can provide a welcome scent where you need it most.
  • Stop or reduce erosion — Christmas trees are sometimes used on beaches because they can trap sand and therefore reduce erosion.
  • Let someone else deal with it. In the town of Smithfield, you can have your tree picked up, details are available at this website: www.smithfieldva.gov/news/article/december/07/2020/natural-christmas-tree-pickup. Other municipalities may pick them up as well, simply go to their webpages for details.