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What to do with your Christmas tree

If you’re taking down holiday decorations and thinking about ways to get rid of your Christmas tree, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has a suggestion. Instead of sending your tree to the landfill or getting it chipped up, the not-for-profit private land conservation group says there are benefits to putting it in your own backyard.

Dan Kraus, NCC’s senior conservation biologist, says leaving it in your backyard over the winter can help provide a home for bird populations trying to survive the tough weather. The tree will enrich your backyard ecosystems right away and it can also improve soil.

The first step in letting nature help you recycle your Christmas tree is to put it anywhere in the backyard, which often happens anyhow when we miss the municipal tree recycling pickup.

Evergreens provide important shelter for birds on cold nights and during storms, and offer a safe place to rest while they visit your feeder,” says Kraus. “You can even use your old tree as a bird feeder by redecorating it with pine cones filled with peanut butter, strings of peanuts and suet.”

By spring, the tree will have lost most of its needles. Simply cut the tree branches, lay them where spring flowers are starting to emerge in your garden and place the trunk on soil.

Kraus says the tree can provide habitat, shelter wildflowers, hold moisture and help build the soil, mimicking what happens with dead trees and branches in a forest. Toads will find shelter under the log, and insects, including pollinators such as carpenter bees, will burrow into the wood.

By fall, you’ll start to witness the final stage in the life of your Christmas tree, as the branches and trunk begin to decompose and turn into soil,” says Kraus. “Many of our Christmas trees, particularly spruce and balsam fir, have very low rot resistance and break down quickly when exposed to the elements. The more contact the cut branches and trunk have with the ground, the faster it will start to be recycled by fungi, insects and bacteria.

We live in a country with amazing forests, and it’s important that our kids learn about them. We can do that by visiting forests in parks or on NCC properties, but we can also start to learn about forest ecology in our own backyards.”


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