Your gardening questions answered: How to compost a Christmas tree

There are several ways that you can put your old Christmas tree to good use in your garden

Q: This might sound like a silly question but can I compost my Christmas tree? SF, Dublin

It is not a silly question at all, and I applaud your desire to do so. There are several ways that you can put your old Christmas tree to good use in your garden, one of which is to finely chop or shred up the smaller branches to add as a layer to your compost bin.

Alternatively, these finer branches can also be used as the base layer of a compost heap where they will help to keep it aerated and prevent compaction. Some gardeners also use the old branches of Christmas trees as a natural scaffold to support horticultural fleece over vulnerable seedlings. I have also seen them used to help support climbing plants such as runner beans, or to support and protect tallish crops such as broad beans and potatoes from wind damage. If you have a gappy hedge that you are trying to plump up, then the branches can also be used as temporary training supports. Simply place them into the gaps and then tie the young branches of the hedge to them so that they are growing at a more horizontal angle, which will encourage more growth along their stems.

Any bigger, woodier branches along with the trunk of your Christmas tree can then be sawed up and then left in a quiet corner of your garden to slowly rot down. As it does so, this little log pile will become a nature-friendly habitat that is home to a wide variety of beneficial garden wildlife from small mammals, reptiles and amphibians to wood-boring insects, woodlice, wood wasps and beetles, providing both food and shelter for them.

Bear in mind that other kinds of natural Christmas decorations can also be composted, including wreaths, swags and bunches of greenery. As always, just make sure to first remove any plastic decorations or wire from them before chopping them up finely with a secateurs or garden shredder and then adding them to your compost bin.

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Remember that a healthy, high-functioning compost heap needs alternating layers of nitrogen-rich green materials (vegetable peelings, leafy garden remains, mown grass) and carbon-rich brown materials (shredded/finely chopped Christmas tree branches as well as other woody material, fallen autumn leaves and shredded cardboard) and plenty of moisture. For best results, your compost bin should also be situated in a bright, sheltered spot in your garden or allotment, but away from the overhanging branches of any nearby trees or shrubs.

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