Q. We’ve had our Christmas tree up since just after Thanksgiving and it’s time for it to go! The kids are sad to see it leave but really, it’s time. Since the pandemic they’ve been doing more in the yard and I wonder if there is anything we can use the tree for once we get it outside. Any suggestions so they can keep using it? – S.F., Albuquerque
A. I can think of several things you can use the tree for and all of them will keep the kids’ brains (I hope) involved.
First, make a bird feeding station with the tree. Set it, stand and all, in a fairly protected spot so the winds of late winter-early spring won’t knock it over. Then tie suet trays and seed blocks into the tree.
There are so many different-sized seed blocks made nowadays that don’t weigh too much, which could cause the tree to list. It’ll be pretty easy!
Also consider stringing popcorn. Using plain, strong cotton thread and a fairly stout needle, teach the kiddos how to string popcorn. Using short lengths of thread – especially at first – will teach dexterity and patience for sure.
Also, make sure the popcorn is plain, air-popped popcorn. No flavors or salt should be added.
On the lengths of thread have them add several cranraisins, raisins and smallish pieces of apple that have passed their prime.
Drape the finished strung popcorn on the tree and it’ll be remarkable as to how many different types of birds will come to feed.
The kids can keep a diary of what types of birds are attracted, awakening even more of their brains. And with the “sewing” they might just discover an affinity with needle and thread leading to who knows what!
Near the base of the tree make sure that shallow dishes of water are set out to complete the scene. Keeping the water trays filled and unfrozen will need to be a daily chore, perhaps on a rotating basis so everyone helps keep the birds as healthy as possible.
If bird feeding isn’t the ticket, then use the tree as mulch. Using loppers or a small hand saw, cut all the limbs off the trunk. Then lay the cut limbs over plantings in the gardens that would benefit from some added protection.
The laying of the limbs will keep the ground beneath from heaving by being kept at a more consistent temperature.
This is especially good for perennial beds and areas planted with a bevy of bulbs. The moisture you offer by watering will work its way through the boughs to the young and resting plant life so they’ll stay comforted throughout the balance of the winter months.
Even draping your large planter pots and half barrels will conserve the plants in them.
In the spring you can collect the boughs and place them so they’ll be gathered during the first yard waste collection next year. It’s all a win-win!
Now if you don’t have the wherewithal to use the tree in the yard there is a way to “tree-cycle” here in our metro area.
Beginning Monday, Dec. 28, and running through Jan. 10, take your tree to one of the three, free, tree-cycling collection spots we have here in the Albuquerque metro area.
• Montessa Park Convenience Center: 3512 Los Picaros SE. • Ladera Golf Course: 3401 Ladera NW. • Eagle Rock Convenience Center: 6301 Eagle Rock NE.
Drop-off sites are open between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Limit five trees per resident.
In Rio Rancho – from Friday, Jan. 1 to Jan. 15 – tree-cycling is being held at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex, located at 3501 High Resort Blvd. SE.
Other counties and communities around the state also offer tree-cycling services so check with your community.
The reasoning behind tree-cycling is simple. Keeping a valuable green source out on a landfill saves needed space, and being able to “spread it around” and using it as compost helps keep our world a better place.
And it sure smells good!
You can fill pathways between garden rows and as a mulch in gardens, it offers protection and conservation of water.
If you want, you can take some of the mulched trees back home with you, but you’ll need bring your own bucket or pail, a shovel and a strong back to collect your mulch.
The workers there have enough work to do with the mulching so they aren’t available to assist you with that!
So you see, there are several ways to have your Christmas tree keep on being useful. Have fun!
I want to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2021 while we’re out there Diggin’ In!
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.