This month, you may find yourself with more organic material than usual in your home: namely, a Christmas tree to remove. There are several options for conservation-minded Christmas tree disposal, including options for composting the tree in your community or as part of your own compost.
The lowest time commitment for Christmas tree recycling is usually to let someone else recycle or compost your tree. Christmas trees are collected for recycling at many locations by cities, townships, counties and other waste collectors. Some places offering curbside recycling and waste pickup designate times or locations for Christmas tree recycling; check locally for services available in your area. This ensures your tree will be collected, chipped and shredded for compost and mulch.
Composting your own tree will take more time and space but may be worthwhile – especially if you have a chipper or shredder that can reduce the tree for mulch, or brown compost. You will need to prune the branches from the tree for easier chipping. Take care not to get poked as you’re pruning branches, as some evergreens dry out faster than others and quickly become pricklier! You might also consider leaving the branches to dry until spring, stacked with other small branches collected from the yard, for later chipping. Evergreen branches can also be used, without further chipping, to add another layer of winter mulch shrubs and other plantings, according to a publication from Iowa State University.
Spent Christmas trees can also be put to use in your woods during the winter, especially if you leave brush piles for bird and wildlife habitat. Simply drag the tree to your location and add it to the pile. Some people even “re-decorate” the tree for wildlife by sticking suet, peanut butter and other wildlife goodies onto the tree branches. The tree can still be retrieved, in the spring, and chipped up for mulch or compost.
Moving the old Christmas tree around need not be difficult as many trees can be easily dragged from the house to its new location. If you’re trying to avoid leaving needles across your yard – or if you have a larger tree that’s harder to handle – try transporting in a wheelbarrow, like the Cyclone SuperHauler. The SuperHauler’s powerful engine drive makes it much easier to transport loads like a Christmas tree through snow and into the woods, all the while keeping needles contained.
If you do decide to add a chipped or shredded Christmas tree to your compost pile or mulch, keep in mind that pine needles are acidic. This is great for mulching acid-loving plants, like hydrangea and blueberry. But adding too many pine needles to the compost pile can reduce the amount of nitrogen available to the aerobic bacteria which do the main decomposition work. That’s why it may be best to use evergreens as wildlife habitat or chip them for mulch – or “brown compost” – rather than adding the tree and needles directly to the compost pile.