January 12th, 2008
Oh, Christmas Tree

Christmas tree mulch
Austinites take advantage of the City’s free Christmas tree mulch.

Dateline: January 12, 2008

As early as I could nudge AJM out of bed this morning to make me a cup of bracing coffee (decaf), I was off to Zilker Park for the moment I’ve been waiting for since Thanksgiving, Christmas tree mulch season. Although in the 40s when I began, the day warmed up to the 70s and this year quite a few people were shoveling mulch, into pickups, onto flat bed trailers, in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. Youngsters, middlers and elders, men, women and couples, with dogs and with kids–we were a convivial bunch. And the scent. Now I have the Christmas spirit.

A young reporter from the Daily Texan came by to ask about recycling, what we use the mulch for, and whether we thought it was more ecologically sound to chop down Christmas trees and recycle them or buy artificial trees. “What do you do?” she asked me. “Well, this year I didn’t have a tree. But I’m glad all these people did and that Austin has a recycling program.” The local news had a cameraman out and I caught an unflattering shot of me from behind on this evening’s 6 o’clock news.

To Austinites planning on getting mulch: wear gloves! People don’t always manage to remove those thin wire ornament hangers from every branch…or even every ornament. (If someone is missing a “Brian 1975” Hallmark baby ornament, I have it.) Also bring a pitch fork. The mulch packs down and it’s very difficult to dig it out with a shovel. Happy mulching!

Dateline: January 10, 2007

My biggest gardening Christmas present of the year comes the week after the last Christmas tree is dropped off at Zilker Park for recycling. The City of Austin puts the trees through a chipper/mulcher and then offers them up to Austin gardeners on a first come, first serve basis. Thank you, City of Austin! The city also picks Christmas trees up with the curbside recycling but those go with the rest of the lawn and leaf waste to help produce Dillo Dirt.

I use the wood chips on my paths and the green needles to help heat up my compost pile. Christmas tree mulch is too hot to put directly on plants; it needs to be composted first. AJM got me a pitch fork for Christmas and I had so much fun using it today. My yard smells like Christmas all over again.

Not everyone in Texas drives a pickup. I can fit two leaf and lawn bags full of mulch in the passenger seat and three paper grocery sacks in the trunk. Maybe if I took the top off….

Does your city have a Christmas tree recycling program?

by M Sinclair Stevens

8 Responses to post “Oh, Christmas Tree”

  1. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    I set my tree out for recycling at curbside, so I guess it’s Dillo Dirt by now. I love that Austin offers Xmas tree recycling. And I’m glad you are able to enjoy the by-product.

    And it makes the whole yard smell like Christmas. I love it! — mss

  2. From Julie (Austin):

    Cool that you got a pitchfork for Christmas! Keep sticking it to us in 2007.

    Happy New Year!

    I almost always get tools for presents. I’m a practical gal. –mss

  3. From Jan (Covington, LA):

    In Louisiana we use our recycled Christmas trees to rebuild our coastland. Trees are put in corrals and then placed in the marshes. This stops the erosion. It would be nice though to have some mulched.

    Jan. I stopped by your blog and noticed your post on Christmas tree recycling, then came back here and put the link in to it. Very interesting. It’s encouraging to read about different the efforts around the country to use a valuable resource rather than trashing it in the landfill. — mss

  4. From Carol (Indiana):

    Wow, a pitchfork for Christmas, and then all that mulch for free and a Brian 1975 ornament, too. Austin seems like a very cool place to garden in January. Our city has drop off sites for Christmas trees at several local parks. I think the city uses the mulch from them in those same parks.

    Carol, May Dreams Garden

    This has been a great week for gardening. I’m getting a bit frantic over how much needs to be done to prepare for spring. — mss

  5. From Julie (Austin):

    Dear MSS,

    Love the beautiful garden paths you made with 2006’s mulch and can’t wait to see where the 2007 Christmas trees turn up in your garden.

    Minor progress here. Thinned/transplanted larkspur looks happier than do the poppy sprouts. Some genius (!) needs to invents a poppyseed planter. Even when I mix with sand and broadcast, they seem to wind up in a clump. Kills me to think of losing any of these seedlings!


    I’ll be posting about it as soon as I can get it all unloaded. What a job! As for your transplanting, I understand completely. I hate losing even one seedling. I’ve gotten completely behind in my transplanting. I hope some of your poppies pull through. — mss

  6. From Diana Kirby - Austin:

    Oh – I loved your comment about the missing ornament! I seem to lose more, too, as the years go by. Now you have to spread that mulch, though!!!!

    Yes. And I have to spread it before this front comes in and it starts raining and turns cold. Update tomorrow. — mss

  7. From Lisa at Greenbow:

    What a pile of mulch. I bet it smells good too.

    The scent is intoxicating. I just want to jump up on the top of the pile and roll down it, as many children do. — mss

  8. From Pam:

    Wow! I’m envious. How great that they do that.

    Like many Austinites, I forget the rest of the country is different. I’m always surprised that not every community recycles Christmas trees. It’s such a win-win solution. The city grinds up the mulch and doesn’t have to worry about all those trees ending up in the landfill. Gardeners eagerly haul it often and using the mulch (after it composts) reduces water consumption. — mss