Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mulch new plants with your Christmas Tree

The cookies have been eaten, the eggnog is drunk. The last party of the season saw the children running around with noisy horns for the new year. December is over, and it is time for that most arduous task: stripping our Christmas tree of its ornaments and lugging it back outside.

This can be depressing for people who loves parties and all the excitement of the holidays, but as gardeners, we can find some redemption even in the dismantling of our treasured decorations.

The weather has continued to be very mild for this time of year, but I am trying not to be lulled into forgetting that the coldest part of the year is yet to come. Some of my plants are in need of extra coverage in January, especially those that were newly planted this past growing season. Their roots are just beginning to establish themselves, not yet fully gripping the soil around them. Also, those in wind-blown areas are often just bare stems and earth by this time since the wind has stolen their leaf cover. This is where our dearly loved Christmas tree comes in to help.
Stems of a newly planted hibiscus made bare by the wind
After hauling/tossing/lugging your tree outdoors, cut off the branches where they meet the trunk. Use these to create a framework around the stems of your precious plants. I usually use 3-4 medium branches per plant, though windier areas my call for using larger and/or more evergreens.  This teepee-like-framework will filter the desiccating winds of winter.
Evergreen branches set in a sort of teepee around the plant.
For ease and in warmer climates, the branches may be enough cover for the winter.

But if you live in a cold zone 5 or higher, you might want to consider taking an extra step on an unfrozen day to protect your plants: Grab handfuls of leaves from elsewhere in your yard and tuck them in and under the evergreen branches. Or do this process in reverse: first pile the leaves around the plant, and then add the branches on top. Either way, this will hold your extra winter cover in place through wind, snow and rain.

Leaf litter tucked into the branches around the hibiscus and the newly transplanted lavender (at left)
My new OSO Easy Rose 'Paprika' surrounded by evergreen cover to help it establish.
An added bonus: the evergreen branches look really pretty scattered in your garden boarders with a dusting of snow!
This photo just taken this evening after our snow fall - finally!
In the first growth of spring, after the weather is less constantly icy, pick up the branches from your plant and scatter the leaves so that you can watch it come out of dormancy. Another winter gone by... oh, for that day!

Merry un-trimming to you!


  1. Nice post, Julie. I have done this religiously each year and it does work well. I am not a fan of un-trimming, but I am looking forward to the clean and polished look all of my surfaces will have when I'm through putting everything away.

    Joyful gardening in 2012!

  2. This is brilliant! Thanks for the informative post. Our tree is still up but will come down this week. This year our tree is going to a friends pond as a fish habitat but normally we put it out in the garden for the birds and other wildlife. I must try your suggestion next year.

  3. What a great idea! I usually am tired of the tree by the time it comes down, so I'm just as happy the day it comes down as the day it goes up! Nice to see the Christmas tree becoming useful in another way.

  4. Great idea...I leave the leaves but there is not enough many times or they blow away...

  5. We do this with the cut branches, and we throw the tree in the woods to act as a shelter for birds and other wildlife. I like useful tips like these...happy new year!

  6. This is a great use of your tree. We cut ours and store them to use to start fires in our fireplace all winter. They smell great.

  7. Dear Julie, Love this posting. We didn't have a Christmas tree this year, as I was in England until a few days before Christmas. We usually recycle our tree by placing it in the garden and trimming it with treats for the birds. Happy new year! P. x

  8. love this idea...my xmas tree is still in its stand on the back deck (shameful I know)...guess what I will doing today :)


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