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What to do with your Christmas tree once the holidays are over?

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

I love Christmas. It’s one of my very favorite holidays (who am I kidding? I love all holidays). One of the things I love about Christmas is we bring outside to the inside. My cat thinks this is the best idea ever. I mean, why don’t we have a tree in the house all year long? This year, I went up to Allegheny County to pick up the wreaths for our annual 4H wreath sale, and while I was there, I was able to pick out and cut a Fraser fir Christmas tree. Since this is my first Christmas in my house, I went a little crazy; my tree is eight feet tall. It is beautiful, and I love it. However, what am I going to do with it after Christmas? When I lived out in the country on the farm, I would just drag our trees out in the woods to decompose independently.

Now I live in the city, so that is not an option. What do you do with your live Christmas tree after the holidays?

If you live in the city of Salisbury, you can put your live tree out on the curb with yard waste. Make sure you remove all ornaments, lights, tinsel, candy canes, etc.

The trees will be composted with all other yard waste at the city composting facility. This is an excellent way to return your tree to nature. The city’s Public Services Department has a free compost giveaway program at its Grant Creek Compost facility. Salisbury city residents, and people from the surrounding areas, can pick up free, high-quality compost generated from last year’s curbside yard waste. The Grants Creek composting facility is located at 1915 Grubb Ferry Road in Salisbury. Compost is available for pickup on Fridays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. or until supplies are depleted.

If you don’t live in city limits and live in the county, there are some other options. Take your tree to a pond or lake. When trees are dropped and left in water, they become a thriving reserve for fish. The tree’s weight acts as an anchor, and as time passes, algae start to form on the tree, feeding fish and protecting them from predators. Cut the branches or boughs from the tree and use them to protect plants in your garden from drying winds and sun while allowing for water drainage. Boughs also help to hold the soil in place on slopes. While most plants will do fine with a standard layer of 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch in the fall, a few plants might benefit from an extra winter application of mulch, such as:

Tender small shrubs

Evergreen perennials

Bulbs and tender perennials that have begun to sprout prematurely due to a warm spell

Newly planted seedlings or plants that may not have time to establish roots before freezing weather

If you feel crafty once the greenery had dried, brush the needles off to make a potpourri. Mix them with cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, dried flower, and dried fruit for a sweet-smelling treat. Use the wood from the branches and trunks for support takes. Larger branches and trunks can be used to make rustic fences, arbors or garden crafts. Cut the trunk into one-inch wood coasters. They are pretty and practical; just be sure to let the tree dry out completely before cutting, or the wood will crack. Make sure you varnish the coasters before use.

Lastly, you can put your Christmas tree in your brush pile for burning. However, you should always make sure you follow any burning rules and have the proper permits if necessary. Evergreens are incredibly flammable and have high sap content, so they should never be burned indoors. Decorated, artificial or flocked trees should never be burned either. If you have an artificial tree that you would like to get rid of and live in the City of Salisbury, the week of Jan. 4-8 is a “Spruce Up” week for garbage removal. Artificial trees are one of the items they will take. For more information about the “Spruce Up” week, contact the City of Salisbury Public Works at 704-638-5260.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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