It’s so much fun putting up that tree and getting it decorated for the holidays, but once the presents have been unwrapped and the needles have started to shed like crazy, taking it down feels a bit melancholy. But the good news is that you don’t have to let it go to waste, the are a number of ways to put it to good use, including these:
1. Create a mini-animal sanctuary
If you want to watch birds and other wildlife, your tree offers the perfect sanctuary to bring those wild creatures into your yard. After you’ve removed all of the decorations, including every last strand of tinsel and anything else an animal might choke on, simply move your tree, with its stand, outside. Now decorate it with edible ornaments or popcorn strings. One of the easiest ways to decorate it for the birds is to collect pine cones, smear them with peanut butter and then roll them in birdseed. Now you’ve got an enormous animal playhouse. Check out some more DIY bird feeders here. By the time winter is over, the tree will have completely dried out making it easy to break apart by hand and recycle with all of your other yard waste.
2. Add it to your garden
There are a number of ways to use your old Christmas tree in the garden. You can chop up the trunk and branches, breaking it down to add insulation, use the pine needles to cover your garden bed or compost your tree to enrich the soil. Since pine needles dry quickly and decompose slowly, they’re great for adding moisture- and mold-free mulch. The branches can also be used to edge the garden and the trunk can be strategically placed to provide the perfect rest stop for critters like birds and squirrels. You could also cut the trunk into miniature rounds and use them in an upright position to edge paths, beds or other garden features. They’ll break down slowly to add nourishment to the soil and improve the condition of your garden beds.
3. Create a fish habitat
Overwintering fish need spots where they can hide from predators and get out of the coldest areas of the water. That’s where your Christmas tree branches can help if you have a body of water on your property. In nature, branches often naturally fall into ponds, rivers, and streams to create a habitat for fish, but in more manicured water features, these animals typically have fewer options to choose from. Adding branches from old Christmas trees can help keep them safe throughout the winter months. It also provides a natural decomposing habitat for fish that will attract algae for them to eat.
Before proceeding, just make sure your tree hasn’t been treated with any preservatives that can leach into the water, and that all decorations, ornaments, hooks, tinsel, etc., has been removed.
4. DIY Potpourri
You can make a sweet smelling DIY air freshener by crushing up the pine needles and putting them into a bowl of potpourri or into sachets. Another way to keep that fabulous aroma wafting through the house is to mix up those pine needles with some of your favorite spices in a simmering pot of water that’s left on the stove all day long. A few ideas in addition to the pine needles for adding to the pot include orange rind, cinnamon sticks whole cloves and nutmeg – the possibilities really are endless.
Just place as many pine clippings into your pot as you can, toss in the rest, cover with water and place on the stove’s back burner on simmer. Check it occasionally and add water as needed. Here are another 10 ways to make your home smell amazing.
5. Have a bonfire
If you have an outdoor fire pit, you can use the tree to make a bonfire. Just don’t do this inside – the tree is great for taking advantage of its quick-to-ignite branches to start a fire outside, but never in an indoor fireplace where creosote buildup is a hazard. Evergreens have high levels of creosote, which is basically tar, and can cause extremely dangerous smoke and buildup.
You’ll have a hot, fast fire, particularly if the tree is totally dry. When burned outside it can make for a fun social event, and after the fire goes out, the ashes can be used to nourish the soil amongst other things.
As with any bonfire, just be sure to check with local authorities first to find out if you need a burn permit, and be sure to observe safety precautions. Light the fire in a clear, open area on a day with minimal wind, don’t keep flammable objects nearby and watch the tree closely as it burns.
6. Animal bedding
If you have livestock or other outdoor animals, along with a shredder, you can use the tree chips as bedding. If you don’t have a shredder, the branches can make for good bedding for larger animals provided some straw is added for comfort. Using an evergreen for bedding can sometimes help keep insects out too, as the smell tends to repel them similar to cedar ships. Just keep an eye on your animals to be sure no problems develop as some, like chickens, tend to have negative reactions to fumes released by evergreens, particularly cedars.
7. Pine needle tea
Making pine needle tea is a great use for all of those needles – just be sure that the tree you have hasn’t been treated with any type of chemicals. While most pine needles can be consumed, be aware that some are poisonous. Don’t use the needles of the Ponderosa Pine, AKA the Bull Pine, Blackjack Pine and Western Yellow Pine, as well as the Yew and the Norfolk Island Pine. When you consume the tea, you’ll be getting a high level of vitamin C which helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells, and it also offers powerful antioxidant qualities that help prevent chronic illness and disease. The needles are also packed with vitamin A and a variety of carotenoids that serve as antioxidants. These compounds are particularly beneficial to the eyes, helping to prevent cataracts, improve vision strength and even slow the onset of macular degeneration.
To make a pine needle tea, all you need to do is gather a handful of pine needles and steep them in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t overdo it, as it can lessen the vitamin content.
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