Christmas trees can be a real conundrum. Real or fake? Living or, um, not-living? Which has the least environmental impact, and how can we lessen any impact our tree has on the planet? In all honesty, the option with the least impact is the one Mickey Z. suggests: don’t get a tree.
For some of us, though, the holidays just aren’t the holidays without something upon which to drape garlands and those antique glass ornaments from our grandma. We can choose a living tree, and plant it out in the yard when the holidays are over. Or we can buy a cut tree from an organic tree farm, and then recycle it. Better yet, put that tree to use in your garden.
Five Ways to Use a Holiday Tree in Your Garden
1. Cut the branches off and lay them over perennials in your garden. This will provide protection from temperature fluctuations and prevent the plants from heaving out of the soil.
2. Once you’ve used all the branches, you’ll be left with a trunk. Don’t get rid of it! I’ve used the trunks from a few of our holiday trees to make teepees to grow beans on, rustic fences, and as supports for shade covers and floating row covers.
3. You can cut the branches up into smaller pieces and use them to mulch your beds or garden paths. Don’t think you need a big, gas-guzzling chipper for this! I use a pair of trusty bypass pruners, and snip a few branches into pieces each time I go out into the garden. It takes a little more time, but it’s free, easy, and doesn’t have any impact on the environment.
4. Provide a home for the birds. Once you’re done with it indoors, remove the decorations and place your tree, stand and all, out in the yard. Birds will find it and use it as shelter during the winter months. In spring, once the birds don’t need it anymore, either chip it up or lay it on its side in a part of your yard where it can serve as a brush pile for other backyard wildlife.
5. Cut the branches off and use them at the base of a fresh compost pile. It’s a good idea to have coarser materials, like tree branches, at the bottom of the pile because it helps increase air flow to the pile.
Being green doesn’t mean getting rid of the beloved traditions in our lives. It means making new traditions, and really thinking about how we can green those traditions. Reusing a holiday tree is one easy way to do that.