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To plant or to recycle?

BUY A CHRISTMAS tree--live or cut--with a clear conscience this year, knowing that after the holidays it can improve your garden or the local landscape instead of choking a public landfill. All it takes is a little planning. Here are options.

BUY A LIVING TREE

The basic rule when you select a living Christmas tree is to plan ahead. If you want to keep and display it, buy a kind that thrives where you live. Get it from a survey that can vouch for its success as a garden or container plant, or check the tree's climate requirements in the Sunset Western Garden Book.

Also check the tree's ultimate size. If it grows slowly and to modest size, like a Korean fir or Austrian black pine, it might work well in your garden. But if it will quickly outgrow your garden (the case with most conifers), consider keeping it in a container and using it as a Christmas tree for two or three years, then donating it to the city or county.

Sunset readers from Walla Walla to San Diego have given living trees to grateful municipalities, to plant in parks and greenbelts and at schools and libraries. Call the parks department and ask if it will accept living trees after the holidays.

The biggest problem that living trees present is their sheer weight and bulk. However, one person can easily move a live tree with a hand truck. The job is easiest when the tree is in a flat-sided container. When you buy your living tree, get a box-shaped container at the same time, and have your nursery plant the tree in it before you leave.

Keep the tree in your house for no more than 10 days, and water whenever the top inch of soil dries out.

RECYCLE A CUT TREE

Even a cut tree won't be wasted after the holidays.

Before you buy, call your disposal service and ask if it has a tree recycling program. If it doesn't, ask who does.

After you've located a recycler, you may have to put the tree out for pickup on a certain day or take it to a collection site for processing, but you may get mulch (if you want it) in return. Throughout San Diego County, for example, there are about 70 drop-off locations where cut trees are turned into mulch for use at landfills or by home gardeners. The San Diego Wild Animal Park (above, far right) is one of those sites. Forty percent of all cut trees sold in the county were recycled last year.

If you don't find a recycling program, cooperatively rent a tree chipper with neighbors and grind all your trees on the same day.

You can use the gridings immediately for mulch, or let the pile rot for later use as soil amendment.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Christmas trees
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Words:471
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