Home Gardening techniques How to recycle Christmas trees

How to recycle Christmas trees

Chopping up the Christmas tree for recycling
Chopping up the Christmas tree for recycling

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).

Needle mulch for rhododendron
Needle mulch for rhododendron

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.

Repair hedges

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.

Encouraging the needles to leave the branches
Encouraging the needles to leave the branches

Temporary shelter for tender plants

Use boughs to protect plants from severe frost, creating a microclimate under stacked branches.

Cobaea scandens, the cup and saucer vine, supported by old Christmas tree trunks
Cobaea scandens, the cup and saucer vine, supported by old Christmas tree trunks

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.

Burn wood in summer in fire pits
Burn wood in summer in fire pits

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.

Use ash to lower pH of soils
Use ash to lower pH of soils

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.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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