Published on 12/11/08

Reuse that used Christmas tree

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Dead trees lining the roads after Christmas are usually the last lonely reminders of the holiday season. This year, don’t ditch that tree. Reuse it, says a University of Georgia expert Christmas tree saver.

“When Christmastime is over, Christmas tree buyers everywhere are reminded that wrapping paper can be forced into a trash can, but a tree can’t,” says Matthew Chappell, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Some people use their dried up tree to make a bonfire, but if done improperly this can be a huge fire hazard. Others chunk trees over the back fence (into the woods, not their neighbor’s yard). Chappell gets a little more creative.

Chappell’s “Top 10 Things to do With a Christmas Tree After Christmas" are:

No. 1 - Whittle a walking stick. Christmas trees are generally tree species unique in Georgia. Make a special walking stick. “It takes a lot of whittling. You can give it as a gift next Christmas.” This is Chappell’s favorite use.

No. 2 - Create a coat rack. Cut all the branches off except for a few at the top, which should be trimmed 3 inches to 4 inches from the trunk. “It will turn out very good if you strip the bark. The wood is very pretty.”

No. 3 - Build a bottle tree. Cut all the branches about a foot from the trunk and put wine bottles on them. “My friend in Charleston, S.C., started that trend in his yard at Folly Beach. It’s definitely better with different colored bottles.”

No. 4 - Fashion a fish habitat. Drop three or four trees together in a pond or lake. Small fish will use the trees as a protective habitat to hide from larger fish.

No. 5 - Craft a longbow. “My brother-in-law made a longbow out of last year’s Christmas tree. A lot of bow hunters are going back to the old style, the old world way of hunting.”

No. 6 - Carve a bird pole. “My parents have used trees as birdhouse poles.” They can also be used to hold bird feeders, but make sure to cut the branches to the trunk or the birdseed will become a squirrel feast.

No. 7 - Shape a vine pole. Trim the branches off, but leave some for vine support. Sink the trunk in the ground. Plant a climbing plant like a morning glory or clematis next to it.

No. 8 - Make some mulch. “Some people, if they have a chipper or shredder, make mulch out of their trees.”

No. 9 – Split wood. Chop up the tree. The smaller branches make excellent kindling.

No. 10 - Plant a landscape addition. “If you get a live tree, just plant it.” If you plan to plant your Christmas tree, pick a variety that can take Georgia’s heat. Pines, cedars and cypresses typically do well in Georgia. Spruce and fir will wither when summer hits.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.