Christmas tree is still good for a merry accent

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Why toss out your "used" Christmas tree when the holiday season ends? If the tree is still reasonably fresh, it can be "planted" in a tub of sand, stones, or soil and decorate a doorway to your home, or even be used as a foundation "planting" till spring. Depending on the weather, it may not turn yellow for weeks.

But if it is fairly dry, you can tie it to a fence post a little farther away from ciritical eyes. It will still provide shelter for the birds. STring bags of suet can be hung for your feathered friends.

It is easy and inexpensive to make your own seed balls.

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Cover the bottom of a tin can with bird-seed. Pour in bacon grease or other melted fat to the desired height, adding a strong string while the fat is still liquid. Add more seeds to the top. Put it in the refrigerator or outside until it is hard. Then cut out the bottom and push it out. This may melt in the Deep South, but for a large part of the United States in most winters, it is very effective.

Three trees can be tied together, wigwamstyle, around a bird feeder to give the visitors a place for the holding patterns they use in landing and taking their turns at the feeder.

If you live in the country and have livestock, you can lean a discarded tree against the chicken house or a corner of the poultry yard and let the hens and ducks enjoy the shelter.

Several trees tied to poles or a fence can provide an emergency windbreak around a stock waterer through the coldest months of the winter. Even if it falls to the ground, a tree will offer some protection for a beehive or a cellar window.

If you chop off the branches, you can use them as a light mulch for bulbs and perennials. when spread over an existing mulch of leaves, sawdust, or hay, they add thickness to the mulch and hold down the flightier materials against the wind.

If you own a shredder, you can grind up an old Christmas tree and any other discarded trees or branches. You can find many uses for wood chips, whether you live in suburbia or beyond.

The cut-off branches can be used in the spring as supports for pea vines and the like. if the tree pole is slender, it can be trimmed down for a tomato or bean stake. As a last resort, the skeleton of the tree can be chopped up for firewood. It will be much less explosive without the needles.

The College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, part of State University of New York, has an annual Christmas tree recycling program which any group or organization could adapt. It requires an easy-to-reach central location, such as a parking lot; a shredder or chipper, which may be supplied by a local utility company; some publicity in area newspapers or broadcast media; and a crew to unload the trees, bag chips, and direct traffic.

Then, on a weekend in January, ask people to bring their discarded trees to the site. In return, they can carry home a bag of wood chips, plus instruction for using them as organic mulch.

Leftover chips can be donated to public plantings or left for the latecomers to pick up.

Chipping sure beats a bonfire, and it keeps the air clean to boot.

Why let such a useful thing go up in smoke before its time?

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