News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Reefing the Tree: What to do with the old Tannenbaum

Date Posted: 2020-12-21
Source: Daily Mountain Eagle


Editor's Note: Many state DNRs (Division of Natural Resources) will be collecting old Christmas trees after the holidays. DNR fish biologists use old Christmas trees to provide fish habitat in lakes and small impoundments. Christmas trees are tied to weights and submerged in lakes where fish cover is scarce. This type of cover provides fish with hiding places and works as fish attractants for anglers to target. Below is a story addressing quite a few inventive and mirthful ways to dispose of the tree.

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry (and healthy) Christmas on behalf of the Walker County Extension Staff. Hopefully even as you are reading this article, you are enjoying spending time with family and anxiously awaiting the annual visit from Santa. 

One of the first things that comes to mind after Christmas, other than what to do with all the Christmas wrap, bows, boxes, and dinner leftovers is “what to do with the old Christmas Tree”. While most people now use an artificial tree, many still enjoyed the holiday season with a live cut tree. I prefer to address this issue as soon after Christmas as possible for a number of reasons. First of all, the longer your tree stays up the drier it becomes and the drier it is the more of a fire hazard it becomes. It is also true that one can only take Christmas decorations for so long before it is time to move on to other things, and besides the longer you put it off the more of a chore it seems to become. Here is my “Top Ten” list of things that you can do with your old Christmas tree.

10 – Put your old tree in a yard sale. Some people will buy absolutely anything!

9 – Lean it up against the front of your house and tell your neighbors the carpenters messed up and your house is leaning.  Suggest they also check their houses.

8 – Give it to your in-laws and tell them it has great sentimental value from the 2020 Christmas season (although this has been a year that most of us would actually rather forget) and it would mean a lot to you for them to keep it.

7 – Ask your accountant if you can donate it to charity and use the original purchase price as a tax write-off (hey it never hurts to ask).

6 – Give it to your neighbor and tell him it is not dead, just dormant. When it doesn’t green up next year tell him he should have taken a soil sample when he planted it.

5 --  Take it back to where you bought it and tell them it didn’t work right and you want your money back….this works especially well at Wal-Mart.

4 – Paint it orange and blue and put it in the yard of your favorite Alabama fan (or vice versa). 

3 --  Place a “Christmas 2020” sign on the tree and save it. Start a collection so that you can remember each and every Christmas.

2 – Stick the trunk in the ground in your front yard and call your County Agent to ask why the tree died after a couple of months.

And the number one thing to do with your “used” Christmas tree and the only sensible thing in my mind is to recycle it.

There are any of several ways that you can recycle your Christmas tree. They actually do make great backyard habitat for a number of birds and small animals. The branches and remaining greenery provides excellent cover for birds, rabbits, squirrels, and a host of other animals that you may enjoy watching in your backyard wildlife habitat. Try placing the tree along the back of your property line, along an old fence, or other out of the way location on your property. Placing the tree in this manner will allow the animals to use the cover while not creating an eyesore in the more public areas in your landscape.

Should you decide to use your old tree in this manner, first be extra careful to remove all ornaments, tensile, wires, and ornament hangers from the tree since they can be very harmful to the animals you are trying to attract.

Your old Christmas tree can also be ground up into a very useful organic mulch that can be placed around your landscape plants and ornamentals or can be added to your compost pile. Adding organic mulch around your plants will help protect the plant’s roots from severe fluctuations in temperature and will help prevent the roots from being damaged by freezing weather. The mulch will also help to conserve soil moisture and reduce the amount of time and effort that you spend watering your plants, especially those plants that are newly established. Mulching will also help you with weed control by helping to prevent sunlight from striking the soil’s surface and allowing the weed seed to germinate and grow. I don’t know about you, but there are few things in life I hate worse than pulling weeds.

Incorporating ground organic material into the soil will also improve drainage in tightly compacted clay soils and will result in better plant growth. It will also help drier sandier soils to hold moisture better. Some people are lucky enough to own their own home chipper. If you are not one of those lucky one’s you may have to shop around a bit for access to a commercial chipper. Many companies and municipalities own such equipment.

Your old Christmas tree also makes great fish habitat for home pond owners and for those with that “favorite fishing hole” on the lake. Submerged structure such as old tree tops provide cover and will hold numerous forage fish such as bream, bluegill, and shellcracker. Crappie are also numerous in areas with such cover as are larger predator fish such as bass who are attracted to the area because of the large number of baitfish.

The tree should be weighted down to prevent drifting and should be securely fastened to the weight in order to prevent it from floating and becoming a hazard for other boaters. Many fishermen now mark their fishing hole and submerged structure with GPS units so that they can find them and utilize them at a later date.

For those of you who opted for a “living Christmas tree” this year. Now is a great time to plant your tree in your home landscape. This should be done as soon after Christmas as possible to prevent your tree from drying. Make sure that your tree is well watered and the root ball is moist before replanting your tree. The hole for your new tree should be three to five times as wide as your tree’s root ball (the wider the better) but no deeper than the original root ball.  In fact you may want to leave the top of the root ball about one-half inch or so above the ground level to accommodate settling. Just make sure that no roots are left exposed. A good layer of mulch such as pine straw or shredded bark will also help your tree to become established in its new location.

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