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Old Christmas trees can help overwintering birds

When the garlands, lights and other décor go back into storage, natural Christmas trees can become a month-long gift for birds trying to survive winter outdoors.

"You'll want to throw a discarded tree into your yard, not next to a building or other flammable structure. That way, as the tree dries out, it can safely provide birds with some shelter from the weather. It also can serve as a handy escape hatch when danger lurks nearby," said Chip Miller, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

He suggested tossing out some holiday leftovers, too, so the tree can be a temporary bird feeder.

"A few of our snacks are among birds' favorite foods. The fruits they like include grapes, cherries, bananas, and pieces of apple, orange and pear. Birds also like stale popcorn and bread. They appreciate any common nutmeat, but especially peanuts, pecans and most native nuts," Miller said.

To extend a holiday tree's usefulness into February, gardeners then can use its limbs as mulch around roses or other acid-loving plants, he said.

"But, also keep an eye open for a place to choose as its final resting place. Some communities collect and chip old Christmas trees. Pond owners and lake managers sometimes use them to prevent soil erosion or to establish spawning grounds. By definition, though, harvested trees should be green--recycled," Miller said.

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Date: 12/26/08

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