Written By John Forshee, District Extension Director/Horticulture River Valley Extension District
Years ago, my toddler daughter and I went to the farm and selected that perfect cedar tree to decorate for Christmas. It was a perfect tree, beautifully shaped and with that great cedar aroma. Although it looked just the right size in the pasture, it was just a bit too tall for the house. OK, maybe 4 feet too tall is more than a bit, but I went to work and soon had it whittled down to size.
At the end of the season, as many are every year, we were left with the decision of how to dispose of that Christmas tree that had served its purpose. The value of a Christmas tree, whether cut from a pasture or purchased from a vendor does not have to end there.
Many municipalities allow old Christmas trees to be placed curbside to be picked up or to be taken to the local branch and leaf site. They are then ground for mulch or are often just burned.
Homeowners can utilize that tree at home as well for the benefit of birds, landscape or fish. Tie that used tree to the deck, post or tree located near a bird feeder. Those birds that you enjoy watching then have shelter on cold winter nights or a place to hide when cats or other predators threaten.
Fisherman often will consider sinking Christmas trees as a way to improve fish habitat. The sunken tree provides substrate for water plants to grow, cover for minnows and other small aquatic life. Larger fish are drawn by the shade and abundance of food in the area. To sink the tree, simply tie it to a rock or cinder block with a piece of stout rope and toss it in.
Many homeowners may use the branches as mulch in the landscape. Cut off the branches and run them through a chipper to use as mulch or simply lay them out around plants that might need some extra protection during the coldest months of winter. The remaining stem may be used as a stake in landscaping or once dried can be cut in small pieces and burned in the fire pit, providing great entertainment as the fire sparks and pops. For this same reason, I discourage the use of most conifer type trees in a fireplace as the sparking and popping can create fire hazards in the home.
As you can see, the majestic Christmas can continue to provide use and entertainment long after the holiday season.