The best way to recycle your real Christmas tree at home – your garden will thank you for it

Mulching is one of the top January garden jobs – and you can recycle your real Christmas tree for it

A lit-up real Christmas tree outside a house
(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

Even with the cold weather raging outside, there are still some gardening jobs you can (and should) get done in January. And mulching should be at the top of your list according to gardening guru Monty Don and other garden experts. And it turns out that you can get your mulch and recycle your Christmas tree for free in one go. 

This is the perfect time to take your Christmas tree down, and time to think about what you’re going to do with it afterwards. If you’ve got yourself the best artificial Christmas tree, then it’s most probably going into storage. But a real Christmas tree needs to be disposed of. Or does it?

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends recycling your Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch as one of the top jobs for the month. It’s the most sustainable way to get rid of your tree and it’s a budget-friendly method of getting some mulch, so we couldn’t be more on board.

A living room with a decorated Christmas tree, graphic rug and a colourful sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

Recycle your Christmas tree for garden mulch 

If you’re wondering what mulching is, it’s simply applying a layer of organic material over your garden borders and even your lawn to retain moisture, suppress weeds and improve the quality of soil. And in January, it’s one of the best ways to protect plants from the frost.

‘Applying mulch in winter will help insulate the soil, providing protection against extreme cold temperatures,’ says Petar Ivanov, gardening expert at Fantastic Gardeners. ‘It also reduces water evaporation, suppresses weeds and promotes a healthier soil environment for plants. Mulching in January is especially beneficial for protecting plants during colder months and preparing the soil for the upcoming growing season.’

Petar Ivanov portrait
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is one of the company's top-performing experts and manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

A house with a garden in winter

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Repurposing your tree for mulch is one of the benefits of getting a real Christmas tree in the first place.

‘Recycling your Christmas trees into mulch is an eco-friendly way to repurpose them after the holiday season,’ says Jack Sutcliffe, gardening expert and co-founder of Power Sheds.

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, continues, ‘There are two main ways to get mulch out of your tree: one way is to make mulch out of the needles, and the other is to make mulch out of the wood.’

This is how to approach these two methods.

Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. 

A lit-up real Christmas tree outside a house

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

How to make mulch out of tree needles

Using the Christmas tree needles for mulch is the easier way as you simply wait for them to fall off and then scoop them up afterwards.

‘Leave your Christmas tree out on your garden patio (somewhere with a hard floor, not grass or mud) and wait for the needles to drop off,’ Steve explains. ‘Collect these needles and sprinkle them over plants and soil that are acidic.’

Winter foliage in a basket and a bucket with a sprinkling of snow

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to make mulch out of wood

‘Chop or shred the tree and spread the mulch around your garden beds,’ Petar says. ‘However, when doing that, avoid using the mulch too close to any plant stems to prevent the development of moisture-related issues.’

While you can chop the wood, the best way to do this is using a wood chipper or shredder.

‘You can either take the tree to a local recycling centre to find out if they accept Christmas trees for mulching or use a chipper (if you don't have one, you can always rent one) to turn the tree into mulch,’ Jack recommends.

But once you’ve got yourself your wood chips, it’s best to let them dry out a bit more before using them. ‘Leave the new wood chips out for a couple of months, letting them rot so that they're more broken down,’ Steve advises.

So don't leave your tree out for the council to collect this year, start mulching instead!

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.