Recycle your Christmas tree
• Leave it in a corner of your yard, where it will provide shelter for birds for most of the winter. Whole trees have also been used for dune restoration – but don’t dump your tree on the beach in the hope that sand will eventually cover it! They’ve also been used for rebuilding wetlands and for providing cover in fishing and hunting spots.
• Shred it and use the chips for mulch. Most firs take a long time to rot and will make good mulch. Shredded Christmas trees have been used for landscaping in parks, on school campuses and in other public places. The mulch has also been used as a cover for landfills.
• Chop your own tree or feed it into your shredder, then put the residue in your compost pile. It will eventually rot in the heat of the compost pile and will provide acidity to the pile, although you might have to add a little lime if your pile is too acidic.
• Cut off the branches and pin them down on banks and slopes to help prevent erosion.
Once you’ve recycled the tree, it’s time to think about all that Christmas wrapping paper. Rip the colored ribbons and bows off, fold it into squares and put it in your paper-recycling bin. Save your ribbons and bows for next year or for birthdays during the year. They take up very little space and will save you a lot of money. Don’t burn paper if you throw ashes onto your garden. Some paper inks contain heavy metals, which can be taken up by your plants.
You can also compost most of your leftover food, too. But don’t put your leftover beef bones or meats in the compost, as it will encourage rats to come to your compost pile. All your vegetable peelings, leftover vegetables and other organic matter can be recycled in a compost pile. Do be aware, however, that in winter, it is difficult for an outdoor compost pile to heat up and you might want to look at other ways to recycle your scraps.
One way to do this is to start a worm bin. Worm bins are between 8 and 16 inches deep and have a lid to keep flies out. If you really want to get into it, you should have a bin that has two square feet of area per person. The bin should be kept in a warm place, like a garage or basement. Start your worm bin with two or three layers of moistened newspaper, a handful or two of garden soil and maybe a few crushed eggshells. Then, you can add worms and your kitchen waste.
Red worms are the best worms to get for your bin. You can buy them online or pull a few out of your garden, though they’ll be hard to find at this time of year because they’ve gone deep to escape the cold. Start with a pound of worms. Because each worm can digest about a pound of scraps a day, you’ll be able to recycle a lot of non-greasy scraps. But when you are first starting your bin, note how much has been digested. You may have to slow down the process until your worms get acclimated and start eating more. In spring, put the scraps and worms directly into your garden or potting soil to add a huge amount of nutrients.
This time of year, you might also have piles of ash from your wood-burning fire. These ashes don’t need to be put into the compost, as they are already sterile. They can be thrown directly onto the garden. But don’t dump them all in one place. Spread them around and dig them over in the spring. Brassicas, tomatoes and peppers all like soil amended with ashes.
Finally, plan to recycle all the food you ate. Get out and take a walk to get rid of any extra pounds that you put on over the holidays. If you can’t take a walk, go for a run, a bike ride or go to the gym. Don’t just sit around at home and watch the ball games like I plan to do. Be active!