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Three lives for Christmas trees
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I’ve always liked Christmas tree farms. There’s something nostalgic about them, plus I’ve always liked the way they look. Like toy soldiers standing at attention, Christmas trees are stately, orderly, dressed for service and have a presence in the landscape. They may also have as many as three lives.

First, there is its life as a crop. One that provides oxygen, filters dust from the air, provides bird habitat and a livelihood for the family who owns it. After all, Christmas tree growers are in business and, like any farmer, have a commodity to sell. Second, there is its life as a decorative and aromatic addition to our home for the holidays. Tall or short, thin or wide, it seems like the right tree finds its way home to be shelter for the gifts tucked under its boughs. Third, there is its life as, what? Let’s find out.

OK, well Christmas is over, the eggnog has gone off, the relatives finally departed ... and you’re left packing up the lights and ornaments and wondering what to do with the Christmas tree. Here are some tips for how to make your once glowing and bedazzled evergreen tree have a third life.

Place the Christmas tree in your garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. Suet, molded seeds or disposable birdseed hangers are readily available from garden centers and bird supply shops. Homemade treats, such as pine cones or stale bread smeared with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed, are also a hit. Make sure all decorations, hooks and garland are removed. Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper. You’ll need to secure the trunk to the ground to prevent it from rolling away in winter winds. You can attach the tree to a stable support with wire or twine or use stakes to secure the tree to the ground.

If your property is wooded, place the tree out on the “back 40.” I’ve done this in my own back yard and the tree makes great habitat for birds and other wildlife, especially during the cold winter months. Over time, the tree decomposes and becomes one with the earth, adding back organic matter and minerals to the soil.

If you live in within the Camden city limits, you can place your tree curb-side on the normal day for vegetative debris pick up. The City Sanitation Department will pick it up and bring it to the landfill for grinding and making mulch. Please be sure to remove all of the lights, ornaments, tinsel, borbals and bows from your tree as those items should not end up in someone’s landscape bed! Also, if you happen to use one of those large, specially-made Christmas tree removal bags, please cut it off once you carry it to the curb. Better yet, save some money and carry it out in an old sheet. The city cannot accept trees or any vegetation stuffed inside any kind of plastic, regardless if it says biodegradable or not. We need your tree to be, dare I say … naked.

If you are outside of the city limits, you can bring your tree to any of the Kershaw County Recycling Centers. The county will also deliver the trees to the landfill for grinding provided it is bare of any man-made materials.

Lastly, please do not dump or dispose of your tree on someone else’s property or along the roadside and never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils. Burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup and risk a chimney fire.