Surrey firefighters handle Christmas trees at Newton Athletic Park during a charity chipping event in 2015. (File photo)

Your Christmas tree: Chip it, curb it or chuck it in backyard as gift to wildlife

Several tree-chipping events in Surrey planned on weekend of Jan. 4-5

Now that Christmas is over for another year, what to do with the tree?

In Surrey, natural trees can be placed on the curb for collection by city recycling crews.

“Before putting your tree in your organics bin, the tree must be cut up into pieces no bigger than three feet long,” says a post on the city’s website (surrey.ca).

“Remove all tinsel, lights, decorations, tree stands and plastic bags from Christmas trees prior to disposal.”

Natural trees can also be brought to one of the many tree-chipping events planned around Surrey, including those hosted by Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society at Newton Athletic Park and also Guildford Town Centre on Saturday, Jan. 4, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Elsewhere, Surrey Central Lions Club host a tree-chip event at Central City Shopping Centre (10153 King George Blvd.) on Sunday, Jan. 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with donations to Surrey Food Bank. At Holy Cross High School, tree chipping is done by donation on Saturday, Jan. 4 and Sunday, Jan. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 16079 88th Ave., with proceeds to local charities and youth via the Knights of Columbus.

Meantime, the Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests leaving your old Christmas tree in your backyard – as a gift to wildlife.

Dan Kraus, the organization’s senior conservation biologist, says leaving the tree in your backyard over the winter can provide “many benefits” for backyard wildlife, as the tree can provide “important habitat for bird populations during the winter months, especially on cold nights and during storms.”

He suggests propping it up near another tree, against a fence or lay it in your garden. Get the family involved by redecorating it with pine cones filled with peanut butter, strings of peanuts and suet for birds to enjoy while they find shelter in the tree.

“Evergreens offer a safe place for birds to rest while they visit your feeder,” Kraus said in a news release. “Another benefit is that if you leave the tree in your garden over the summer, it will continue to provide habitat for wildlife and improve your soil as it decomposes.”

By spring, he noted, the tree will have lost most of its needles, resembling a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree. Simply cut the tree branches, lay them where spring flowers are starting to emerge in your garden and place the trunk on soil, but not on top of the flowers.

Kraus says the tree branches and trunk can provide habitat, shelter wildflowers, hold moisture and help build the soil, mimicking what happens with dead trees and branches in a forest. Toads will seek shelter under the log, and insects, including pollinators such as carpenter bees, will burrow into the wood.

“By fall, the branches and trunk will begin to decompose and turn into soil,” Kraus explained. “Many of our Christmas trees, particularly spruce and balsam fir, have very low rot resistance and break down quickly when exposed to the elements. The more contact the cut branches and trunk have with the ground, the quicker it will decompose. Drilling holes in the tree trunk will speed up that process.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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