Christmas trees can also be used in the garden

Christmas trees can also be used in the garden

Tracey FitzgibbonSince Three Kings Day is behind us, the Christmas season is complete, and the question of what to do with used Christmas trees lingers.

With that, today is the last day of the free “treecycle” event offered by the city of Albuquerque and PNM.

The drop off locations are Montessa Park Convenience Center, 3512 Los Picaros Road SE; Eagle Rock Convenience Center, 6301 Eagle Rock Ave. NE; and Ladera Golf Course, 3401 Ladera Dr. NW, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

But, if you haven’t taken your Christmas trees to be mulched and repurposed, there are a couple of things you could use the tree for in your gardens until the first annual green waste collection in the spring.

First, using a sharp pair of loppers, cut all of the limbs from the tree’s trunk. Next, lay the limbs down snuggly surrounding any perennials you might have growing. You can cover swaths of ground in your vegetable gardens, again layering the cut limbs to surround any perennial vegetables you have planted. Rhubarb plants come to mind.

You’ll still be able to water appropriately through the balance of the winter by either moving the limbs and then relayering them snugly around your plantings, or even just water through the limbs themselves.

Having the limbs laying on the garden’s soil will help in two ways. They’ll assist in insulating the ground, keeping what’s planted beneath more protected and then help with the prevention of a malady called heaving.

Heaving is the process when the soils get heated and then cooled causing plants to be compressed and pushed by the soil. Sometimes plant roots are disrupted enough to cause damage.

If you want to be more bird-friendly or don’t have plants or a garden to protect, you can keep the tree in its stand and place it outside to become a bird-friendly feeder. You can hang compressed bird seed discs in the tree and even place oranges to create a diner for our feathered friends.

To make an orange feeder, take a wire coat hanger, straighten it and then make an “S” hook. Slide half an orange onto the “S” and then hang it in the tree just like an ornament. You can also string popcorn on these cold dark nights. Be sure to offer dishes of water to complement the menu and you’ll be amazed by the number and variety of birds you can attract to your yard.

I recommend removing as much decoration as possible before using the tree as a feeding station. That way any birds aren’t harmed by tinsel.

Thanks for repurposing your Christmas tree responsibly.

Q: Now that my Christmas cactus has nearly finished blooming, especially having used your guidance about triggering to get it to bloom, how do I continue caring for it? – E.B., Albuquerque

A: I hope you’d kept the Christmas a smidgen more watered while it was in bloom. It’s now time to back off on the amount of water offered and treat it more like a houseplant again.

If you moved the plant during the holidays, consider putting it back where it lived previously. If you have the space and are enjoying having it more visible, as long as it’s getting enough light, you can leave it where it is.

As to the watering, cut it down gradually. If you watered every few days, continue that but only offer half as much. There is no need to keep the Christmas cactus too damp now. In fact, too much water will be detrimental for this plant.

Come late March to mid-April is when you do your annual repotting, saucer and pot cleaning, and plant wash off. Treat it to a fertilization then if it isn’t being repotted, and just tend to it like you would a normal houseplant.

Come October, it’ll be time to trigger again and have all that glory to enjoy.

Have a Happy New Year 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


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