I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. But now Christmas is over and the decorations, lights and Christmas tree are starting to come down, being put away for next year.
Maybe the Christmas tree is not being stored away, especially if you have a real tree. Now the question becomes: What do I do with this tree? If the tree is a living tree with a root system, it can be planted in the yard to enjoy for years to come. However, most of the trees are cut trees, and they are going to be thrown away.
There are a number of different ways to dispose of trees or use them around the yard.
The first way to use the tree is to attract birds. The dense arrangement of the limbs offers protection for the birds and allows them to have cover from predators. They can be enticed to the tree by hanging food items on the limbs -- bird feeders, suet, orange slices, peanut butter balls with nuts on them, or bread. To get the most enjoyment from the tree, place it in an easily seen area of the yard. If the area has large shrubs or other natural cover, more birds will come.
Another option is to donate the tree to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for use as a fish attractor.
The trees also can be used in private ponds. All you need are some old Christmas trees, a few concrete blocks, and some rope or wire to tie the blocks to the trees. Place the trees in the pond or lake where it is covered with water. It doesn't matter how deep the water is as long as it covers the trees.
Some people like to stand the trees up. To do this, tie an empty, capped soda bottle to the top of the tree.
The reason to add trees to ponds and lakes is to create habitat for small fish. If you think about the food chain in a body of water, algae and small insects grow on the tree in the water. As these become more plentiful, small fish and larger insects move in to feed on the algae and smaller insects. Then, larger fish move in to feed on the small fish and insects. The tree provides food and cover for fish.
Finally, you can take a Christmas tree to a recycling area.
Again this year, there will be Christmas tree recycling at The Home Depot in Evans from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. In the past, the Georgia Forestry Commission has given away oak, red maples and dogwoods to those who drop off trees.
In addition to the free tree seedlings, free mulch is available. The trees that are dropped off are ground into mulch, and all you have to do is load it and haul it off. It should be used like any mulch. Place a 3- to 4-inch layer around plants.
Some people worry about using the mulch because they think it will damage their plants. The only way the mulch will damage the plants is if it is incorporated into the soil. When woody material is incorporated, it removes nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down. If it is placed on top of the soil, it will not remove the nitrogen.
The only thing that could be of concern is placing the mulch near homes. The mulch has not been treated for insects and could attract termites. It should only be used in beds away from homes.
Those who get tree seedlings should properly plant the tree so it will grow and perform its best. The first thing to consider is where to plant it. Depending on the species, look at how tall the tree gets and how much shade or sun it requires. Oaks and maples can grow to a large size, so don't plant them under power lines or around the eaves of homes. Also, plant oak trees and maples in full sun to partial shade; dogwoods require partial shade to full shade.
To properly plant the tree, dig a large hole. I like to dig a hole 2 to 3 feet wide. This will loosen the soil and give the tree roots a good start. Make sure not to plant the tree any deeper than it was initially planted. Determine this by looking at the seedling and seeing the old soil line. Once the tree is planted to the old soil line, water as needed.
The seedlings should then be mulched. This is a good use of the mulch from the Christmas tree recycling. Soon you will have a tree to enjoy for years to come.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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