Taking Down the Christmas Tree

— Written By
Live Christmas trees make the holiday season special. Giving the tree a second purpose is a nice way to usher in the new year.

Live Christmas trees make the holiday season special. Giving the tree a second purpose is a nice way to usher in the new year.

Taking down the Christmas tree feels a little depressing. It is sad to throw out a tree that has been the focal point for several weeks. However, everything has a season, and by now the tree is probably not looking its best.

City of Lenoir residents can put the tree on the curb. It will get picked up. Charles Beck, Public Works Director, said, “We will be picking up trees until January 10th”. The trees that are collected will be chipped and become mulch.

People living outside the city limits (or those just interested in recycling the tree on site) have some options.

What comes to mind first is using the small twigs from the tree for kindling, but there are likely easier places to get kindling. An age old tradition is to use the tree for feeding birds. Move the tree outside and set it up. Then decorate it again with various kinds of bird food. Strings of popcorn, dried cranberries, apple slices, bird suet, or seed balls can all be used to decorate, attract and feed birds.

Making popcorn strings, bird suet, and seed balls is a fun project to tackle during the holiday break. Heavy duty cotton thread and a sharp needle works best for making popcorn string. Cotton thread breaks down quicker than synthetic thread. Use unsalted and non-buttered popcorn.

My recipe for bird suet does not use any actual suet at all. Suet is the term used for the hard internal fat found in beef and lamb. Butchers call this KPH (kidney, pelvic, and heart) fat. I just don’t keep KPH fat in my pantry, but I do have shortening (Crisco) that will work just as well. The recipe is called “Sure-Fire Suet(less) Mix”.

Sure-Fire Suet(less) Mix
1 part peanut butter
1 part shortening
1 part flour
3 parts cornmeal
1 part cracked corn
Mix ingredients and place in feeder

Put this mixture in a suet feeding cage. If you don’t have a special suet cage, don’t worry. A mesh bag that contained onions, oranges, or other vegetables works just as well. Another way to feed suet is to spread it over a pine cone and hang it on the branches. You can even spread some directly on the trunk and branches. However you put it on the tree, the birds will find it.

I should mention squirrels love suet, but it will attract a wide variety of birds, as well.

If you don’t want to risk attracting squirrels, use the tree branches as mulch. Cut off the limbs and use them to cover perennials such as hostas, or strawberries and any flowering bulbs, too. Mulch helps with our alternating freezing and thawing conditions. It helps by reducing the extremes of temperature and water when the plants begin to wake in the spring. Adding two criss-crossed layers of boughs or branches is enough. The remaining trunk can be used as a beanpole or dahlia stake.

Although not practical in the western part of North Carolina, our coastal neighbors are using trees to help rehabilitate sand dunes. Until this year, the NC Wildlife Commission collected trees and used them for fish habitat along the lakes of the Catawba River. However, they are stopping this practice. They have found there are better long term fish habitat structures than Christmas trees.

Whatever you do with your real Christmas tree this year, I hope you will continue the tradition next year. To me, a real tree makes Christmas feel like a special time of year.

Written By

Photo of Seth NagySeth NagyCounty Extension Director (828) 757-1290 seth_nagy@ncsu.eduCaldwell County, North Carolina
Updated on Dec 27, 2013
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