Nine ways your tree can live on after Christmas


Christmas is a great time of the year. But when all is said and done, you’re often left with a full-sized tree in your living room. If you have a real tree, you can always put it out on the curb. Fortunately, many Rhode Island communities have programs designed to help you dispose of Christmas trees with a minimum of fuss.

But you also have several alternatives to putting your tree on the curb. Many of these are environmentally friendly and make great use of your tree. One little used way, for example, is to replant your tree in your backyard. Doing that is great way of retaining the fond memories of a holiday season.

Replanting Ball and Burlap Trees

You can replant balled and burlap Christmas trees. If this is your goal, consider buying a small live ball and burlap tree. Small live trees survive the transition from outdoors to indoors to outdoors better than large trees. Here are several tips on replanting a Christmas tree:

Dig a hole for the tree as soon as you can. That will help the tree’s chances of survival. If you wait until Christmas is over, the ground may be frozen.

Indoor conditions put trees at risk. So, keep the tree indoors for no longer than a week or a week and a half. Keeping it longer reduces its chances of surviving outdoors.

Keep the tree in a cold sheltered place. The tree has been harvested in the cold, so it’s already gone dormant. You want to keep it in this state before you replant it.

Place the tree in a draft-free location and away from heaters and vents. Wrap the root ball in plastic or wet sphagnum moss.

Keep the root ball damp in the house. It needs to stay damp as long as it’s in the house. You can use ice cubes or daily watering to keep the ball moist.

Take off the burlap bag and other coverings on the root ball first. Then place the Christmas tree in the hole and backfill the hole.

Cover the hole with several inches (5 to 10 cm.) of mulch and water the tree. Fertilize the tree in the spring.

Now you’ve replanted your Christmas tree. It’s a great way of keeping the memories of the holiday season in your backyard if you have the space to do it.

Recycling Your Trunk-Cut Christmas Tree

You can’t replant a trunk-cut Christmas tree. Once the tree is separated from its roots, that’s it. You can replant it, but you can do other things with it. Below we give you several alternatives to putting your tree out on the curb when it’s time to dispose of your tree. Make sure you remove all the lights, ornaments, and tinsel beforehand.

  1. Donate to habitat and restoration projects
  2. Create a backyard bird sanctuary
  3. Recycle the tree and for wood chips/mulch
  4. Use it locally for erosion control
  5. Remove branches and use them for pathway edging
  6. Remove plants and use them to protect delicate plants
  7. Take small branches and add to a mulch pile

You can also use the tree for a fish habitat. Small fish can lay eggs in them. Trees last about eight years in water. But get permission from your local authorities before dropping the tree in a lake or pond. Some municipalities create fish-friendly habitats with Christmas trees. Too many submerged trees, however, can cause problems.

Go to the Pick Your Own Christmas Tree website for more ways to recycle Christmas trees in Rhode Island, or contact RI Tree at ritree@ritree.org. You can also call the office at 401-764-5885.

John Campanini is the technical director of the Rhode Island Tree Council (RI Tree). A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he was city forester for Providence for more than 20 years before retiring.

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