AUBURN, Alabama — What will you do with your live Christmas tree after the holidays? At the end of the Christmas season when all of the decorations are packed away, you have to find something to do with the live Christmas tree. The best way to get rid of the tree is to recycle it. Christmas trees are not a major landfill problem, but sometimes tree disposal is a concern for those not knowing the alternatives.
There are several recycle options for people to choose from. Many communities have a recycling program for discarded Christmas trees. Many cities chip up trees and use them for mulch or compost. This technique is most cost-effective. Other recycling programs include using discarded trees for erosion control on beaches, as a habitat for fish in ponds and lakes and as fuel in electrical power generators.
One way to repurpose the tree is by bundling several trees together to attract fish in recreational ponds. Fish are attracted to a tree habitat for many reasons. Small fish use the tree bundle as a form of protection from larger predators. Additionally, algae and animals that eat algae attach to the tree and provide food for other fish. Larger fish use the bundle of trees as a place to wait for their prey to pass by. They also use it as protection from predators such as large fish-eating birds.
“Fish attractors are important to good pond management because they help anglers enjoy the pond and more effectively catch fish,” said Dr. Rusty Wright, an expert in recreational pond management with Alabama Extension. “Fish harvest, particularly harvest of bass, is critical to keeping the predators and prey in balance.”
To make a fish attractor, Wright suggests bundling 2 to 3 trees together with wire. If you wish the bunch to stand up, tie in a float to the tops of the trees. At the base, use two concrete blocks per group of three trees. For upright bundles, place the trees in water 4 to 6 feet deep. Bundles on their side can be placed in shallow water right up to the edge. To make them more effective, place the bundles in groups of three or four.
“Be prepared to augment or add to the bundles through time. Christmas trees generally don’t last long,” said Wright.
“Stand the tree up in your backyard so birds can use it for nesting and as a potential food source for the winter months,” said Baril. “Place peanut butter directly on the branches and cover them with bird seed. This is a great way to help birds because food is scarce during the winter.”
Reuse Christmas trees for a rabbit habitat. “If you live in a rural area, gather several Christmas trees together and lay them on the ground to make a shelter for rabbits. Rabbits are very active at night, so they need a place to protect themselves from owls,” said Baril. “If you use this method, the greenery must still be on the tree.”
“I have had these shelters as close as 60 feet to my house and the rabbits still used them for shelter,” Baril added.
Norman Haley, a regional Extension wildlife agent based in northeast Alabama, added that these shelters can be used by more than just rabbits.
“I would recommend using Christmas trees to produce wildlife habitats that provide cover and structure throughout the landscape. These piles are used by not only rabbits, but also by many game and nongame mammals, as well as birds.”
For more information on repurposing your Christmas tree, contact your county Extension office.