Once we take down our Christmas decorations, there comes a time when we realize there is a tree standing in our living room. It always seems rather odd, yet it’s true. This guest, who we crowned in ornaments just weeks before, now becomes an ordinary tree again, standing awkwardly as it awaits its fate. It may be with a heavy heart that we finally remove our needly friend from the stand, but fortunately, there are ways to give your real Christmas tree a second life after Christmas. Here are several options of what to do:
Christmas trees take an average of seven years to grow and sometimes longer. There is no reason to cut their life short after our holidays by sending them to the landfill.
Drop It Off at Your Local Recycling Center
Check with your local town, neighborhood, or county to see where you can recycle your real Christmas tree. Chicago has drop off centers in dozens of parks around the city from January 4-18th. Most, if not all counties in Chicagoland have a drop-off or curbside pickup program as well. In every case, all of the decorations must be removed including every strand of tinsel, and the tree must not be in a plastic bag. That’s because your municipality will be chipping these trees into precious mulch to use in local parks. That’s right, after nourishing our hearts at Christmas, our trees can nourish the soil of flower beds and local trees throughout the year. And sometimes that mulch is available for the public to bring home as well.
More Ways to Reuse Trees After Christmas
Perhaps you don’t want to part with the precious lumber so quickly. Before your creativity is overwhelmed in a chocolate hangover, consider these crafty ways to repurpose your arbor after Christmas.
Do you like to go camping or have a backyard fire? Grab a saw and ax, and add your tree to the firewood pile. It will take at least six months to cure—just enough time for the first summer camp out—or you can save it to warm your fire pit next Christmas. (Outdoors only—wood from your Christmas tree isn’t safe for your indoor fireplace.) As for the branches, trim them up to use as mulch under your evergreens or send them to your local compost facility.
It’s not like you’re going to refloor your living room or build a new shed with a single Christmas tree, but the kindly evergreen still offers enough wood for new coasters, trivets, or some chic bookends. If you’re feeling creative, you may even attempt some wooden spoons, a coat rack, or a funky piece of art. Don’t think you’re that crafty? You’d be surprised at how natural it feels to get out the buck knife and start whittling away.
Use In the Garden
As a professional garden center, you know what’s on our minds. But what use does a dead tree have in your landscape after Christmas? Depending on the shape of the branches, you may be able to fashion them into stakes or a trellis for next year’s pea and bean crops. You could also make an insect hotel with the twigs, a bird feeder, a bat house, or a birdhouse for the wildlife in your yard.
In a natural forest, dead trees become an important habitat for woodpeckers, beetles, owls, and other birds. As an experiment, you could set up the tree in your yard after Christmas, stand and all, to see how your wild friends use it during the winter.
For the Feline
Has your cat been getting into the tree all Christmas? Here’s a chance to give your feline what she may have been looking for all along: a fresh post to sink her claws into. Nothing feels as good as real bark for the fingers and a tall post to stretch the back on. You could set it up inside or outside, and you don’t need much skill to make it look pretty.
Fish and Wildlife
Sometimes the state Fish & Wildlife Department or other wildlife rehabilitation groups take real Christmas trees for restoration projects. They may use them to stabilize riverbanks or sand dunes, or even restore underwater fish habitat. A quick internet search may tell you if any organizations in your area are requesting trees.
Christmas trees take an average of seven years to grow and sometimes longer. There is no reason to cut their life short after our holidays by sending them to the landfill. Evergreens themselves are symbols of the everlasting circle of life that carries on even through winter. When we’re wondering what to do, we should take a lesson from the trees themselves and allow them to live on as crafts, habitat, or in the soil of our parks and gardens!
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.