Keep the holiday alive
Nothing is more festive than a locally grown, freshly-cut Christmas tree filling your home with smells of forest and holiday. But by the end of December or early January, it’s more eyesore than a centrepiece, littering your carpet with dead needles. This year, instead of kicking the tree to the curb as everyone else does, repurpose it in your yard—and watch as birds, insects and perennials reap the winter benefits.
Cut or saw off branches from the tree and layer them flat over your perennial beds as winter mulch. Even if snow already blankets the ground, the branches add an extra layer of protection from fluctuating winter temperatures, says Vijai Pandian, a horticulture specialist with the Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) extension. Use only local trees, as the greens from other areas can carry pests. (Find out the best time to buy a Christmas tree in Canada.)
Make bean poles
After you cut off branches, place the trunk in the garden as a pole for beans, cucumbers or other climbing vegetables, says Debbie Kopydlowski, a Milwaukee County master gardener volunteer. If you have multiple trees, angle trunks together like a teepee. The idea also works well for flowers like morning glories or black-eyed Susan vines.
Create a heritage fence
Save your tree, and maybe your neighbour’s, from the landfill by building a unique barrier. Remove tree branches, cut the trunks into equal lengths and use the sections as fence posts around your garden. You can also pile the trunks and branches as section dividers in the garden, between, for example, leafy greens and ornamentals.
Feed birds and house pollinators
What could be better for backyard birds than a tree strung with food? Debbie recommends placing your tree outside and decorating it with strings of popcorn, berries, citrus fruits, or suet packets made from seeds and peanut butter. Drill 2.5 cm (1-inch) holes in the trunk for pollinating insects to use for eggs and larvae. (Don’t miss these clever ways to store your Christmas decorations.)
Replant for the future
Go to the garden center for a live tree, and decorate it in your house before planting it outside after Christmas, suggests master gardener volunteer Pat Nylen. You will have a pretty tree for the holidays and beyond. Just be sure to dig a hole before the ground freezes to make planting easier. Keep your Christmas tree fire-safe by keeping it watered.
Nourish your soil
Chop up the trunk and branches for compost or, at minimum, keep the needles to mix in with your soil. They add to the acidity.
Next, take a look at these cool traditional Christmas tree alternatives.