Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tips On Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree RecyclingLooking to recycle your Christmas tree when the holidays are over? If you want to let the birds benefit from your tree for a bit – you might think about staking it in the ground and leaving it out in your backyard for a while – after you have replaced the ornaments with some yummy bird feeders of course (think pinecones covered in peanut butter and bird seed or suet cakes).

You can then set it aside once all the needles have dropped and it no longer provides good cover for the birds to chip and use as mulch in the spring.

You might have heard about recycling Christmas trees by throwing them in lakes and ponds to provide fish habitat. We get a number of questions about this practice every year around this time. While this might be a good idea if you have your own private pond, in the case of a larger public lake, we do not suggest that you throw your Christmas tree into the lake.

With a quick Google search, you can find directions for sinking your old Christmas tree with a concrete block and creating ‘artificial habitat’ for fish. Yes, Christmas trees can be re-used to provide vertical structure that would make fish such as panfish and bass happy – however – in regulated waterbodies including most lakes in the Adirondacks, you would need a permit to do so. Some states have programs where fisheries staff creates artificial reefs using Christmas trees to enhance underwater fish habitat within lakes– New Hampshire is one that is nearby. But this method of Christmas tree recycling is best left to the professionals.

Rather than adding your Christmas tree to the lake, if you want to help provide habitat for fish and turtles, leave existing wood in the lake year-round. ‘In-lake’ wood provides important structure for habitat – and is often cleared since it looks ‘untidy’ to homeowners around the shoreline. If it is not in the way of your usual swimming spot or causing a safety hazard along the shoreline, consider leaving naturally downed trees in the lake as part of a natural shoreline buffer.

Once you are ready to take down your tree, find out if your local transfer station accepts Christmas trees for recycling. Many accept Christmas trees to be chipped and used as mulch. Or – for a ‘DIY’ approach – you can chip up the tree yourself (if you have a chipper) or split the trunk to use as firewood or kindling and then lay the branches under acid-loving native shrubs such as blueberries or rhododendrons to use for mulch and weed control.


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Emily DeBolt owns Fiddlehead Creek Native Plant Nursery in Hartford, NY (just outside the blue line in Washington County), which specializes in native plants for sustainable landscapes. She has years of experience working with natives as alternatives to invasives, as well as natives for rain gardens, pollinator gardens, shoreline buffers, and more. Emily has her bachelor's degree from Cornell University and master's degree from SUNY-ESF. She is a Certified Nursery Landscape Professional and was selected as the 2012 recipient of the New York Native Plant Conservationist of the Year by the New York Flora Association. Emily and her husband Chris started Fiddlehead Creek in 2009 because of her love for native plants and her desire to make them more available in everyday landscapes.

3 Responses

  1. David Thomas-Train says:

    How about just throwing them into the woods along with other woody debris to create a brush pile? This provides excellent hiding places for small creatures like mice and voles, which in turn attract larger predators such as weasels and birds of prey.

  2. Emily DeBolt says:

    another good idea for a way to recycle your tree! Just be sure that they are your woods – or that you have permission.

  3. Maria Larner says:

    Where can I find the recycle ornament shown?

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