Mulch, supports, plant shelter and soil conditioner
It’s the same old horror story at the beginning of January – what to do with corpse of your real Christmas tree?
In my council district, you can chop up your tree and put it in the garden waste bin or take it to the one of two recycling centres. However, what if you don’t have a car or a garden waste bin you have to pay for?
Here are some ideas I’ve found useful over the years, plus some other suggestions (I don’t have a fire pit or incinerator).
Mulch for acid-loving plants
Place sheets under your tree while taking it down and chop up branches over a bucket to catch needles. Use the needles (pine, fir, etc) to mulch acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons. Keep it 5-6cm from the trunk and no more than 5-6cm deep.
Cut off the boughs and the use the trunk to repair any gaps in hedges. They decompose slowly, giving the hedge time to fill in.
Temporary shelter for tender plants
Use boughs to protect plants from severe frost, creating a microclimate under stacked branches.
Support for climbers
Another one I’ve done for years, making use of their slow decomposition (use them until they fall apart). They look best in a cottage garden or wild setting and their robustness suits rampant growers (I’ve used the to support Cobaea scandens, the cup and saucer vine – didn’t think to take a picture of them, just the flowers).
Hire a chipper or shredder
I’ve considered this but you’re talking about £70 a day for rental and hundreds of pounds to buy one! If you’re part of an allotment society or a group of gardening friends, club together and you can use chippings as a mulch. Unlike needles, conifer chippings don’t affect soil pH, studies have shown.
Use the wood for fire pits
Dry out the wood and by summer, it will be fit for fire pits and burners. Avoid any wood that’s still green and has needles, as they will spit.
Burn branches in an incinerator
Always an option if you have one. The ashes actually raise soil pH, the opposite of needles, so avoid using them near acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and blueberries. Use on the compost heap or instead of lime where you need it.