When it is time to take down the Christmas tree, organic gardeners do not like to waste good organic matter. So that means we’re not going to drag the Christmas tree to the curb and let the City municipality haul it away for us.
Just like not wanting to throw our leaves away (see our article on never raking leaves again here), we certainly don’t want to throw away a perfectly good tree. This article will discuss several options for what to do with your Christmas tree.
Option #1: Burn it!
In the Spring, we like to have occasional fires out on the back patio like many folks do, and the old Christmas tree is wonderful to burn outside. Old Christmas trees burn beautifully and smell delightful. Follow these steps:
- Snip the branches off with hand pruners or loppers.
- Cut the branches into pieces that will easily fit into your fire pit
- Saw the trunk into manageable logs with a hand tree saw or other device.
- Burn the branches and logs as desired.
- Use the ashes for gardening or composting. See compost article here
The Christmas tree can be dragged out to the backyard in the winter, and you can either cut it up then or wait until spring to do the cutting.
Option #2: Mulch it!
Pine mulch is the most popular mulch at the big box store in the spring so why not turn your Christmas tree into mulch for your garden beds? Follow these steps:
- Snip off the branches with hand pruners or loppers.
- Chop up the branches into 2 or 3 inch segments with hand pruners or loppers
- Spread the pieces of pine under acid loving plants such as rhododendron, azalea, or magnolia. You can do this now or wait until spring; it doesn’t matter.
- Saw the trunk into pieces with a tree saw and split the wood with a hatchet or maul into skinny pieces. Lay these under acid loving plants. If you don’t want to try to use the trunk as mulch, saw it into pieces and use it as firewood or in Hugelkultur.
Option #3: Hugelkultur it!
Hugelkultur is a German method that incorporates buried wood into gardening. We have a separate article discussing this practice, but basically you bury wood under soil, add mulch to the top, and plant seeds or young plants into it. The wood decomposes over the years and helps the soil by retaining water and doing other beneficial things. Follow these steps to “Hugelkultur” your Christmas tree.
- Take the Christmas tree down and store it (outside or inside) until the ground is no longer frozen.
- Cut off the branches.
- Dig a hole about a foot under the soil and toss the Christmas tree trunk into it. Place the branches on top. Cover the tree with soil until a mound is formed. Then, cover the bare soil with some organic mulch like hay or compost.
- Plant vegetables or other desirable plants in the mound. This is a Hugelkultur mound/hill. (Hugelkultur means “hill culture”) We use these mounds in place of raised beds sometimes, and they work wonderfully.
With all of these options, when you process the Christmas tree is up to you. We usually take the whole tree to a corner of the backyard and leave it there until the weather warms up. In the spring, we chop it up and use it in one of the options above. However, you could chop the tree up in the winter immediately after you take it down. In this case, pile the branches and logs in the backyard if doing option 1 or 3. For Option 2, the mulch can be placed right away in the winter, or you can wait to place it in the spring. An additional option would be to store the tree in a garage or basement until the warm weather approaches then take it outside and process it.
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