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Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Put Christmas trees to use after holidays

December 27, 2007

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Whatever your feelings are about Christmas trees, if you bought a live one, consider recycling it. There are many alternatives to sending the tree to the landfill.

My tree goes out to the yard shortly after the bustle of the holidays. I always have good intentions of feeding birds from it, but the tree just sits back by the shed, minding its own business until spring. When I guiltily realize the tree is still there, I shake the now-dried needles out onto the ground and use a small handsaw to trim the tree into firewood-sized pieces. The needles are used as mulch around nearby shrubs.

If you are motivated toward feeding our feathered friends, turning the tree into a bird feeder is a simple process. Fill pine cones with peanut butter and suet, and stick the cones in between branches, or string popcorn through the tree. Tight evergreen branches protect birds who feed in the tree. Place the improvised bird feeder where you can see it from a window and watch the birds' activity.

Used trees provide habitat for other wildlife, too. A friend of mine in Lecompton has found a landowner who is willing to take her tree each year. She says she feels good adding to the existing cover and knows that small animals and birds make homes in her recycled tree. Stack trees loosely with other brush at the edge of a wooded area to be most effective. Placing several trees in a waterway or alongside a pond can help stabilize the shoreline.

Recycling your Christmas tree for wildlife habitat is easy if you live in Lawrence. Simply place the tree on the curb on one of three dates: Monday, Jan. 7 or Jan. 14. City employees take trees to the old landfill to be stacked for shelter for birds and small animals.

If you have a farm pond, these trees make great fish habitats. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources suggests using a quarter-inch nylon rope to attach a cement block to the stump end of the tree, and then drop the tree into the pond where it will be covered by 4 to 6 feet of water.

Chipping the tree for mulch is a great plan if you have access to a chipper shredder. Then use the mulch in your landscape. I highly recommend making friends with neighbors who are willing to share tools.

The tree may be used as firewood as I mentioned before, but use only dry wood, and take safety precautions. Dry the tree outdoors for at least a few weeks before burning inside, and supervise the fire - the sap in an evergreen will pop and spark. Creosote can also build up in the flue if you burn many evergreen boughs in a stove or fireplace. I burn my cut-up tree in a ceramic fire bowl in the yard. Chimineas and campfires are other good means of disposal for a well-weathered Christmas tree.

Please remove all decorations from the tree before taking it outside, even if you are setting it out with regular trash pickup. Decorations can harm wildlife and pollute water.

- Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension AgentHorticulture for K-State Research & Extension. She can be reached at 843-7058 or <a href="mailto:smithjen@ksu.edu">smithjen@ksu.edu</a>.

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