Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Tree Recycling by Donna Duffy

That lovely, fragrant cut tree you bought weeks ago has probably seen better days by now. It’s time to get it out of the house! Following are three options for recycling the tree once you’ve removed all of the decorations and tinsel. One caution: don’t burn the tree in your fireplace – the pitch content in the bark and needles can cause them to burst into flames from the intense heat.

Treat the birds!
Take that dry tree outside! You can prop it up against the house or leave the tree stand in place. Decorate it with popcorn, fresh cranberries, peanuts in the shell, pine cones with suet and birdseed; apples, rice cakes, or dried corn bundles. The birds will love the variety of treats – as will the squirrels. Use natural string, ribbon and raffia for hanging the edible decorations. The birds will use this material for nesting in the spring.

Use the Tree Boughs for Mulch
Recycle the boughs and use them as mulch in your own yard. Just cut the boughs off the trunk or larger branches and place them on your perennial beds. The boughs will protect dormant plants from drying out as fast as if they were fully exposed. They'll also keep the plants dormant longer because the soil temperature won't rise as quickly on sunny winter days. Be sure to remove the boughs as the plants start to emerge from dormancy. Then chop boughs into small pieces and add them to your compost pile to provide some acidity.
Check out PlantTalk Colorado at for more information.

Recycle Your Whole Tree
Jefferson County has several sites where Christmas trees can be dropped off. This website will be helpful to find the location nearest to you:  Before you take your tree, find out if there are restrictions. Many sites will not accept flocked trees and all sites require thorough removal of decorations to protect both man and machine in the recycling process. The best rule of thumb is to take your tree to the recycler in the same condition that you would find it in the forest. Then go back and pick-up some mulch for your garden! Pine needles are great for protecting fall planted materials, and bark chips are perfect for informal walkways.