Clever ways to use your Christmas Tree after the holidays.

The holidays have come and gone and we’re all getting ready to take down the decorations. But instead of tossing out that real Christmas tree, we’ve compiled some clever reuse ideas.

1. Mulch… Pine needles dry quickly and decompose slowly, making them an excellent moisture- and mold-free mulch for ground-covering crops, such as strawberries, to rest on.

2. Create a bird sanctuary… Place your tree in its stand outdoors. Fill bird feeders and hang them from the boughs, or drape the tree with a swag of pine cones coated with peanut butter. Or you can just dump the tree on its side in a protected part of the yard to provide shelter for wildlife, including rabbits. Allowed to decompose, the tree will become home to insects, fungi and possibly even amphibians and reptiles.

3. Insulate Perennials… Cut off boughs and lay them over perennial beds to protect them from snow and reduce frost heaving.

4. Edge Borders… Cut the trunk into 2-inch discs and set them into the soil to edge flower beds or walkways.

5. Shelter Fish… If you live near a lake or have a pond, and if your tree’s chemical-free, toss branches into the water to provide sheltering habitat for overwintering fish. (Get permission from town officials if needed.)

6. Set a stage for containers… Saw the trunk into different lengths and use the pieces as flowerpot risers for a dramatic group display.

7. Make coasters and Trivets… Cut thin slabs off the trunk, sand them smooth, and apply a thin coat of polyurethane to keep the sap off tables and glassware.

8. Chip it… Rent a chipper (get a few neighbors together to split the cost) and feed the tree through it. Next spring, spread the wood chips under shrubs; they’ll suppress weeds and, as they decompose, add nutrients to the soil.

9. Feed a fire pit… It’s fine to use a few of the quick-to-ignite branches to start an outdoor fire pit—but never in an indoor fireplace, where creosote build-up is a hazard.

10. Stake your plants… Strip small branches and use the remaining twigs to support indoor potted plants or stake leggy seedlings.

11. Let your local government recycle it into compost or mulch. Most cities and counties have composting operations for such valuable organic matter as yard waste and dying Christmas trees. You usually have the option to leave it on the curb on collection days or to take it to a yard waste recycling facility.  Check with your local government for details, but no matter where you live you’ll need to remove all decorations from the trees before pick-up.

And, of course, these recycling options are for real trees only. Artificial trees go back in the box for use for next year!

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