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What to do with the Christmas tree
When the Christmas season ends, those who decorate their home with a live-cut tree are faced with a disposal question, notes a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“The state considers used Christmas trees as garbage and not yard waste, so they can be discarded according to your city or town’s garbage regulations,” said James Schuster. “The trees can also be set up outside as habitat for some birds. Hanging suet in these trees also increases their use for wildlife. If left till spring, the tree can then be recycled if your town has brush pick up.”

In some places, park districts or local public works agencies will grind up the trees for mulch. Some will give you your ground up tree back for your use or it can be added to a public mulch pile. State forest or county forest preserve officials may want to use used trees as a way to increase fish habitat.

“Check with your state forester or county forest preserve. Do not throw these trees in the lakes on your own,” Schuster cautioned. “In past years, the used trees were utilized to reduce soil erosion in some counties. However, current farming practices have drastically reduced this need.

“A more useful use of the trees would be to cut off the limbs and use them as mulch over tender perennials. The porosity of the needles and branches prevents smothering of the perennials and reduces heaving and wind-burning of the delicate perennials.”

Schuster added that well-ground needles and branches can also be used as a soil amendment in the spring.

“When used as a soil amendment, do not dilute with too much soil,” he noted. “Soil amendments work better when used at twice the volume of the heavy clay soil to be loosened.

“Mix two inches of soil amendments with one inch of soil and mix thoroughly for good results. In some cases, nitrogen fertilizer may be needed to compensate for the nitrogen drawn down by the newly added organic soil amendments.”

Published in the December 21, 2005 issue of Farm World.