Now that Twelfth Night is almost upon us, those of you who bought a real Christmas tree will probably be wondering what to do with it.
If you have a cut or a containerised tree (which by now is probably looking very sorry for itself), you’ll need to recycle it.
Some councils have special kerb-side collections for Christmas, while others ask you to cut it up and put it in your green waste bin. Check with yours for details.
Most Christmas trees are too large to go through domestic garden shredders and can only be sensibly handled by the chippers used by tree surgeons.
Once chipped, the resulting waste often ends up as a bark and wood mulch that can be spread on the garden.
Alternatively, it’s added to soft green waste, such as leaves and grass clippings, to make green compost. Many councils sell these products directly to the public, or to compost manufacturers, or use it in parks and gardens around the borough.
Keeping a container-grown tree
If you splashed out on a container-grown tree, you’ll want to protect your investment and ensure your tree remains healthy so you can use it from one year to the next.
The best way to care for your tree for the following year is to keep it in the pot. Most traditional Christmas trees are fast-growing and in the ground they can grow by a metre a year.
Although Christmas trees are tough and can deal with snow and ice, they still need some careful handling as they move from the warm inside into cold, damp and possibly frosty conditions outside.
For the first few weeks, put your tree in a sheltered spot out of the wind, such as close to a house wall, where it can get used to lower temperatures. If heavy frosts are forecast, cover it with sacking or horticultural fleece to give it extra protection.
Once it’s acclimatised, find a sunny spot for it that, again, is out of the wind. This should be somewhere you can easily keep it watered, as your tree will struggle to survive if you let it dry out. Remember to water it regularly, especially in warm or windy weather.
Feeding and repotting
Give your tree a feed in the spring as it starts to grow again. As conifers hate lime in the soil, use an ericaceous fertiliser, which you can buy from any garden centre. Choose a controlled-release ericaceous fertiliser that will release its nutrients over many months.
When the roots are coming through the base of the pot, repot it into a bigger container. Choose one that’s slightly larger than the existing pot, with room for a couple of centimetres of extra compost all around the roots.
Buy an ericaceous compost that’s formulated for lime-hating plants, and mix it with one part horticultural grit or sand to three parts compost. You can find both of these in your local garden centre.
Your tree probably won’t need pruning unless it’s growing out of shape. If it’s looking uneven, nip a little off the new growth in spring. Only prune it by a few centimetres, to encourage your tree to bush out.
Sadly, keeping large trees in a pot isn’t a long-term option and you’ll only be able to reuse your tree for around three years. After this time, plant it in the garden if you have the room for a full-grown tree. Otherwise, check with your local council on how to send it for recycling.
What do you do with your Christmas tree? Or do you have a container-grown one that you’ve reused for longer than three years?