Many year ago, my wife and I married a few months before our first Christmas. Obviously, that season we had no money designated for a Christmas tree. Determined to have a tree, we spent a few bucks on a cheap saw to cut a beautiful tree (so we thought) along a road for our Christmas memory. This was a beautiful Eastern Red Cedar that provided a wonderful smell and beauty in our apartment during the Christmas season. That Christmas is embedded in our memories forever, while teaching us the value of a Christmas tree.

The real value today is how we recycled the tree after the season has passed. After our first Christmas, recycling the tree and wreaths became part of us, just like recycling paper, cans, wood products and glass.

As you are enjoying your holiday season and observing lights emitting from branches on the Christmas tree, do not take that tree for granted. Your tree became part of your experience and the aroma which came from nutrients within the tree will always be remembered. After the tree expires, we need to consider how to recycle it for the greatest by-product value. As you know, landfills do not accept discarded trees at the facility. If they do, don’t do it. Let’s discuss benefits of recycling trees and wreaths with our children by helping them understand the benefits for our environment. Let them know you are giving back to nature, what nature has provided for us to enjoy.

We generally think about tying our tree on the car to return it to the recycling facility, where they are ground for mulch and other uses in our communities. To identify the real value of Christmas trees, we need to understand the nutrients captured from the soil during its growing cycle. Tissue testing would likely indicate that there are 2.4% nitrogen, 0.34% phosphorous and 1.6 % potassium. In addition to these nutrients, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, zinc, manganese and others are present. If the tree weighs 30 pounds, it contains .72 pounds of nitrogen (30 lbs. X 2.4% = .72lbs.), 0.1 pounds of phosphorus and .48 pounds of potassium. Based on one 30-pound Christmas tree, the nutrients will grow 8 tomato plants next year. Now that is recycling at it best. How wonderful that our tree will feed us next year.

Tomatoes are just one example of how we can recycle a tree, while obtaining a value from its nutrients during the growing cycle. Nevertheless, the same principle applies to growing flowers, shrubs and watermelons. As you can see, everything has a value, we just need to be aware of the opportunities from a previously grown plant that gave so much joy during the holiday season.

Recycling the tree can benefit wildlife from the wind during the winter months or a great place for birds to perch and rest during the evening. After the winter months the tree will likely have shed it leaves and easily broken for the recycle bin. Like mentioned above, the nutrients remaining will feed the microorganisms and eventually feed the garden with organic nutrients during the spring plantings.

Christmas trees take 3-5 years to grow into a beautiful specimen for your home during the holidays. It is a gift from nature offering beauty and aroma driven from nutrients absorbed from to the soil. Dedicated growers groom and maintain that tree for your home. Like lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins and apples, Christmas trees are planned and grown for that special time. The lesson … do not toss the tree into a trash receptacle. It has a value, capture it.

Ronald Fister is one of many UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers of Cherokee County. For more information or questions contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 770-721-7803 or for upcoming seminars follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners or online at cherokeemastergardenersinc.wildapricot.org.

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