Even though Chicago offers a Christmas tree recycling program where live Christmas trees can be dropped off at 23 locations, I noticed this weekend that some in my neighborhood aren't taking advantage of the drop-off service. Trees are appearing in empty lots and alleys where they're leaned up against trashcans, providing easy access to food to the city's rats and squirrels. Perhaps residents don't know how to recycle a live Christmas tree in Chicago, or they aren't aware of the program. According to the city of Chicago website, 128,778 trees were mulched and kept out of waste stream since 1990. The mulch produced by these trees goes to beautification projects and is given out for free to gardeners. Below three simple tips on how to recycle a live Christmas tree by putting it to use in your garden, and a list of the locations where you can drop off a live Christmas tree, after you've removed the lights and decorations.
1. Obviously if you own a wood chip shredder, or know someone who does, turn it into mulch yourself.
2. Remove the branches and mulch your garden beds, raised beds and container gardens. In the spring this will help keep the soil cool and protect bulbs and seeds that emerge early before the last frost.
3. Turn branches, stems and trunks into garden art or furniture. Sturdy stems and trunks can be used as tomato stakes like at the Hull-House Heirloom Farm.
Live Christmas tree drop off locations:
Bessemer Park: 8930 S. Muskegon Ave.
Clark Park: 3400 N. Rockwell Ave.
Forestry Site: 900 E. 103rd St.
Garfield Park: 100 N. Central Park Ave.
Grant Park: 900 S. Columbus Dr.
Humboldt Park Boathouse: 1369 N. Sacramento Blvd.
Jackson Park: 6300 S. Cornell Ave.
Kennedy Park: 11320 S. Western Ave.
Kelvyn Park: 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Lake Meadows Park: 3117 S. Rhodes Ave.
Lincoln Park: Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Ave., parking lot east of Cannon Dr.
Margate Park: 4921 N. Marine Dr.
Marquette Park: 6700 S. Kedzie Ave.
McKinley Park: 2210 W. Pershing Rd.
Mt. Greenwood Park: 3721 W. 111th St.
North Park Village: 5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
Norwood Park: 5801 N. Natoma Ave.
Portage Park: 4100 N. Long Ave.
Riis Park: 6100 W. Fullerton Ave.
Rowan Park: 11546 S. Avenue L
Sheridan Park: 910 S. Aberdeen St.
Warren Park: 6601 N. Western Ave.
Wentworth Park: 5625 S. Mobile Ave.
These locations will accept live Christmas trees and may have mulch available until Monday, January 17, 2011. If you have a tip or idea on how to recycle a Christmas tree in your garden, leave it in the comments.