MASON CITY — Mason City and Clear Lake residents may be putting their Christmas trees out by the curb for collection next week, but horticulturist and extension educator John Fech says you may want to consider not tossing the tree to the curb, but find a way to repurpose it. “Recycling it, reusing it, thinking of it again as a resource or an asset,” Fech says.

If you’re crafty, trim the branches to make a fragrant sachet, wreath or garland to enjoy in the weeks ahead. You could also cut up pieces of the evergreen to toss in a nearby lake or pond to provide a habitat for fish. Fech says mulching is another option. “Do that yourself with a hatchet or you could have it run through a chipper,” Fech says. “Many of the cities do that for their parks and then they use that for trail cover around city parks and hospitals and places like that.”

Another idea is to return the tree to the great outdoors for wildlife to use as shelter. “Also, it could just be songbird habitat,” Fech says. “Set it near the bird feeder so birds have a place to get out of the wind and have a little bit of refuge from predator birds.”

If mulching the entire tree is too much work, just using the needles can be an effective mulch on perennial plants, in your garden and to keep weeds in check.

=== If you do decide to put your tree out to the curb in Mason City, it should be placed curbside prior to 7 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday January 9th. If the tree is over six feet tall, you are asked to cut it in half before placing it on the curb. Tree stands, nails, metal fasteners, wire, tinsel and plastic bags must be removed from the tree. Any roping or wreaths that contain wire must be placed in the regular garbage or taken to a disposal site at 14th Northeast and Elm Drive by January 9th. Flocked trees will not be picked up and can be taken to the 14th Northeast and Elm Drive site by January 9th.

=== Clear Lake residents will have their Christmas trees picked up on Monday January 7th. City officials say you need to have your tree to the curb by 7:00 AM that day with all the decorations removed.