Ways to Repurpose Christmas Trees

Christmas trees can be put to good use after the holidays. Here are some tips for repurposing a tree. Begin by removing all decorations, including tinsel. And of course, don’t do this with an artificial tree!

The first thing is to get it out of the house. Dragging a no-longer-fresh Christmas tree outside after the holidays is a messy and miserable task in freezing Midwestern winters. Depending on your later use, here is one method: Bring in a clean tarp and pruning loppers. With the tarp next to the stand, cut off each branch and stack it on the tarp. Then pull up the four corners and slide the tarp out of the house so that the branches can be used later. After that, loosen the tree in the stand and it becomes easy to lift the lightweight trunk out, set the wet base in a plastic bag and carry it out to the curb. 

For some uses the whole tree is needed. That requires forethought. Put an old sheet on the floor before bringing in the tree.  Place the tree on top of the sheet, stand and all. It can then be rolled up under the skirt to hide it and pulled out when de-decorating to catch any old needles. Pull it up around the tree and slide the whole thing out without scattering needles all over the floor.

Here are a few ways to put that old tree to good use:

  • Re-decorate it with treats for wild birds. Leave the tree in its stand or stand it in a large planter with rocks or sand to steady it. Put it on a deck, porch or patio and decorate it with orange halves, pine cones slathered with peanut butter, suet cakes and small bird feeders. 
  • If your yard borders woods or another type of wild area, lay a de-decorated tree near or in it. Birds, chipmunks, mice and other small animals can use it for cover from predators and harsh weather.
  • Compost it. Be sure to shred it into wood chips before you add it to the pile. It is not true that conifer needles or other parts will acidify your compost.
  • Cut branches and loosely place them over “evergreen” perennials in your garden that tend to get ratty over the winter, such as coral bells (Heuchera) or pigsqueak (Bergenia). Remove in earliest spring.
  • Cut a branch or two and hang them above a bird feeder, creating a protective roof for the birds as they feed.
  • Use branches that are still fresh as filler in the New Year’s flower arrangements.