Recycle Your Holiday Tree

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Recycle your Holiday Tree"If you are like me, then there is no substitute for a real holiday tree, with its deep green needles and evergreen aroma," states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. However, your tree is starting to lose its needles, curling at the ends and ready to be evicted from the dining room. There are several options available when properly disposing of my celebrated Fraser Fir.

Mulch: When chipped, holiday trees are biodegradable and will be a welcome winter scarf for your trees and shrubs.

Cut into pieces: Last holiday, I cut the boughs into pieces and stacked and fashioned them into a temporary insect hotel. I created a safe-haven for the crawlies and critters to fend off the rest of the winter.

Place in the backyard: Create a bird sanctuary and provide food for our Illinois birds. Finding shelter may be difficult, and an evergreen tree perched in the backyard may be welcome. Place tree out of the path of the wind for better protection from the cold. As winter hits, birds change their food source from mostly insects to berries or seeds. Horticulture educator Rhoda Feree uses strung popcorn, pine cones smeared with peanut butter and sunflower seeds, strung cranberries, apple rings, and orange slices on a holiday tree anchored to a fence post. While on the other hand, Horticulture Educator Sandy Mason allows Scarlett runner beans or climbing sweet peas to use the old holiday tree skeleton as a trellis.

Take advice from the Ecology Action Center: Bloomington and Normal residents enrolled in waste collection programs may dispose of their holiday trees by placing it at the curb for pickup. Be sure to remove all decorations as the trees will be chipped. Call your local municipality or local boy scout troops if you live outside of Bloomington-Normal. If you live in an apartment, you can take trees to recycling centers or local tree companies. The Normal recycling centers grind trees into mulch and give it free to residents during the year.

Donate to a local water source: Holiday trees can be used to stabilize river and lake shorelines or can be sunk to the bottom of fish ponds to provide habitat for fish.Feree says "Some local fishing clubs urge homeowners to drop off their old Christmas trees to be used as fish attractors in their lakes and ponds. Holes are typically drilled through the trunks, the trees are connected by cable and anchored by concrete blocks and are then placed in 8 to 10 feet of water. The trees serve as places where small fish can hide from larger predator species. And, hopefully, the larger fish will gather around the trees in the area in hopes of an easy meal."

Compost:For composters, shredded holiday trees add a dash of nitrogen to the mix. If you do not have a chipper, this may be an issue. Considering that renting these machines is expensive unless you have several trees to chip, dropping off or having the tree picked up may be the best option.The university of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call 309-663-8306.