That depends mostly on what type of tree you have, of course. An artificial tree that is in good shape will get dismantled, boxed up and put into storage for another year. Most artificial trees are not recyclable, so they end up in the land fill when they’ve become dilapidated. A live tree with root ball will get planted, because that was your plan. Whether it will survive the winter will depend on your locale and the preparations you made.
A Cut, Live Christmas Tree
Some will finger-wag people who choose a cut, live tree for their Christmas celebration citing environmental concerns. But nearly all cut trees come from tree farms where the plants are cultivated in managed forests specifically for this purpose. Deforestation is not an issue. Air quality is not an issue. Disposal need not be an issue either.
Most communities now have a Christmas tree disposal day when residents can lay their bare tree at the curb and trucks will pick them up for use by the city by grinding them into mulch or in environmentally friendly uses such as erosion control and fish habitats in lakes. Rural residents probably don’t have access to such a program, but had similar uses available to them.
Any rural residents who maintain a garden can use the defunct Christmas tree in their garden by either running it through a chipper and bagging the product or snipping the branches onto chunks and bagging them. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries benefit from the acidity of a thick layer of pine needle mulch, so this winter’s Christmas tree can benefit next summer’s berry crop.
If you have an area where rain run-off erodes runnels, lay pine branches (or the whole tree if it’s large) in the runnel and the needles will filter silt from the rain water and help fill in the runnel. Eventually the tree will decompose. If you take steps to control or channel the run-off, the eroded area can be filled in and seeded with a ground cover.
A Christmas tree can be submerged along the shore of a pond or lake to reduce bank erosion and offer a safe haven for fish fingerlings.
You can also make temporary use of a disused Christmas tree by standing it up at a far point of your yard, leaning it against a tree or fence to provide winter shelter for birds and small mammals. You can enhance this use by tossing bird seed into the tree or hanging a suet cake in the branches for the birds. Don’t do either of these if you have trouble with bears, though. When spring arrives, chip what’s left of the tree for use as mulch on your flowers or vegetables.
Another use, if you know of anyone with goats, is as goat feed. Goats love pine branches, but be certain you’ve removed all tinsel and wire hangers from it before turning it over to them. These days a lot of people are raising goats for milk and meat. Some are large scale productions, but even those with just a few will be grateful for the reduced feed cost by taking in your now unwanted Christmas tree.