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Habitat at Home: Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Still have your Christmas tree laying around? Recycle it in your own backyard!

Using a live Christmas tree during the holidays is great – they smell wonderful, it is fun to pick them out, and you don’t have to store it in the off season. At the end of the season, though, you need to get rid of it. Like many of us, you may have forgotten to take your tree to get it mulched or forgotten to leave it outside to be picked up – and now it’s too late! This month in Habitat at Home, we will share a few ways you can put an old tree to good use in your own backyard.

Here in the Conserving Carolina “backyard” we use Christmas trees to stabilize the banks of a small stream that runs behind our office. If you have a stream or just a steep slope in your backyard, you have probably noticed some changes from all the rain we have been getting. Fast-flowing water from heavy rain can cause stream banks or slopes to erode more quickly and unevenly than they normally would. Supporting stream banks using a Christmas tree can actually make the stream a healthier place for native flora and fauna! Stable stream banks decrease sediment pollution (extra dirt in the water) which allows insects and amphibians to survive, and gives native plants a good place to sprout in the spring.

Stabilizing a Stream Bank using Christmas Trees

Supplies: Christmas tree(s) or similar shrub, ¼ inch Rebar, hammer, metal clippers, metal wire


  1. Find bald spot in stream bank and place the tree perpendicular to the slope or alongside the stream.
  2. Insert rebar through tree branches and into bank. Make sure it is stable!
  3. Wrap wire around tree trunk and tie to rebar pieces.
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until entire tree is secure.

Watch as our Land Protection Director and resident plant expert, Tom Fanslow, shows how to restore a depleting stream bank by installing a recycled Christmas tree.

Don’t have a stream, or want to do more?

Here are some extra tips to recycle your tree at home:

  • Cut off boughs and place them on perennial beds to protect them from freezing and thawing. The boughs will act similar to leaf litter and help to keep a steady ground temperature.
  • Pine needles can add nutrients to the soil and keep weeds from popping up in the spring. Clip and use where you would place mulch.
  • Leave the tree in its stand and take outside. Hang bird seed throughout (suet is a good option) and it will become a natural bird feeder! For more recommendations on feeding birds in winter, see our last Habitat at Home segment.

Pro tip: Plan for next year! In early January the City of Hendersonville collects trees and turns them into free mulch. Keep an eye out in December for details.


Habitat at Home is a monthly segment dedicated to providing you with tips to make your yard and home a better habitat for native plants, animals, and insects. Written by Kelly Holland.