Nature Conservancy recommends a better fate for your Christmas tree

Canada’s Christmas tree farms produce over three million pine, spruce and fir trees each year — and most of them are simply abandoned at the curb soon after Santa makes his annual visit.

Now, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is suggesting that people should instead haul their tree to the backyard, to help nature and learn a bit about ecology.

“There are better things we can do with our live Christmas tree when we’re done with it,” said Dan Kraus, senior conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Most municipalities have programs to chip and compost old Christmas trees, but Kraus said residents have an opportunity to make the most of their old tree.

“Put it out in the backyard and you’ll find that backyard birds start using it right away, especially if you have a birdfeeder. The birds will land in the tree before they go to the feeder. Some of them may even stay in it at night to get some shelter,” he said.

“You can decorate your old tree for birds and squirrels by doing things like hanging suet, or peanuts.”

He said that over winter, many of the needles will fall off, and by spring the tree will be ready to introduce to the soil.

Kraus suggests cutting off the branches in the spring and laying them on the ground around flowers.

“They’ll provide a little bit of shelter. They’ll help hold moisture in the soil, and then you can just put the tree trunk somewhere on the ground, even as a border for your garden area. That will start to provide some habitat right away for things like toads or various insects through the summer in your garden,” he said.

Kraus said the smaller you cut the branches, and the more they are in contact with the soil, the sooner they will begin to decompose.

“You are feeding the soil. By fall the smaller branches and twigs that have been in contact with the soil will have probably broken down quite a bit. They might not even be there anymore,” he said.

He said it could take a couple years for the trunk of the tree to completely decompose, but drilling holes in it will speed the process.

“That will encourage insects to burrow into the wood. It will provide habitat and make the trunk break down more quickly,” he said.

Kraus said, for those who don’t have a place on their property to recycle a tree, make sure your municipality composts them.

He said many places used to just put the trees in the landfill, which creates methane that’s not good for climate change.

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