OK...It's time to come up with some creative repurposing ideas for that dying Christmas tree. The holidays have come and gone, we are deep into the winter season (and what a winter it has been...Brrrrr...who else is looking forward to that first Crocus?) but some of us still have our holiday wreaths and Christmas trees sitting in our family room or WAY worse...we've been seeing a lot of dead Christmas trees on the sides of the road in the city lately! What a waste isn't it and maybe just a little bit shameful? Couldn't we find at least a couple repurposing ideas to give a second life to those trees? We cut down evergreen trees...decorate them for the holidays...look at them for a month and then literally throw them away? And guess where they mostly end up depending on where you live?...yes, the landfills!
No matter where you live...a rural town or an urban city...or the size of tree you had...small or big - we think we can come up with a few more things we could do with all that natural evergreen goodness instead of throwing it away! As a lot of you know by now...Earthworm Technologies isn't just about making premium all-natural organic gardening products from your food scraps such as our plant and flower fertilizer EarthPods, but we also like to be creative about offering organic gardening tips and repurposing ideas so we can recycle old things to use in our gardens and love to encourage others to do the same...So, let's start from the top...
If you have a big tree (we had an 8-footer ourselves), then you have a lot of tree to use! So the first thing you could do is cut some FULL-LENGTH branches from the tree in sporadic areas near the bottom (so the tree doesn't look horrible, you'll see below why you don't want to completely chop it to pieces yet) and use those full branches as ground cover protection to cover frost-heaving plants in your garden planters...the first example we can think of is all of those beautiful Heuchera plants that are prone to being pushed up when surrounded by frozen soil. This should help to protect those plants from wind chills and ice for the rest of the season similar to the method we described in our article that lists several garden repurposing ideas for all that free snow!
The second thing you could do with some extra full-cut branches is strip the pine needles from them and then use those hardy branches as plant stakes to keep up your plants and flowers in the Spring (How much do those bamboo plant stakes cost? Why not kill 3 birds with 1 stone: give your Christmas tree another purpose, make sustainable organic gardening supplies, AND save money)...what's to argue?
This should be fairly easy to do since your tree is probably completely dried up by now. If you put on some gardening gloves (we actually just do this with bare hands mostly because we're too lazy to get those gloves out :). The trick is to pinch your thumb and finger on the end of the branch and then pull up along the branch against the natural grain of the pine needles (think the same concept as a man when he shaves his face EXCEPT you're going against the grain not with it!)...the needles should all pop right off. Take the bare branches now and cut them to whatever size you need and use them as you would those expensive bamboo plant stakes you bought at the local nursery. Stake some of your growing indoor plants that are probably getting a bit unruly at this point! BUT WAIT...don't throw away the pine needles you just stripped, we've got a great idea for those as well! On to the next point...
You know those pine needles you just stripped to make plant stakes? Collect them all, as well as some of the shorter evergreen twigs and arrange them nicely in a decorative bowl. For an added bonus, pick up some of those pine cones that you see everywhere on your morning walk and add them as well to the bowl and place it anywhere you like for a free homemade potpourri decoration! We keep ours in the bathroom. You should get a few weeks of nice incense out of that and if you kept some extra twigs, you can even rejuvenate the homemade potpourri from time to time throughout the winter.
We kept some of the evergreen cuttings we had last year after the holidays to use this past Spring as we knew we could use that free acidic goodness when we were planting 3 new varieties of blueberry bushes. Some shrubs, plants and fruits tend to like an optimal soil pH less than 7...those select few would be great picks for the free evergreen boost. Just remember, it does take time for the pine needles to decompose properly so this would take a while and will not help you out immediately if you have a current soil pH that's not proper for your growing conditions. We're lucky of course because we produce what we think is some of the finest natural plant food around so, we just threw some extra EarthPods in the hole when we planted the blueberry bushes to give it a strong organic and nutritional startup boost.
When you're done stripping the parts you need from your old Christmas tree there are still a couple last things you can do. Put the whole tree outside in the garden if you are able to do so. Birds will ALWAYS appreciate another place to shelter, keep warm during the winter or even to build a nest in as they lay eggs in the Spring. We even make homemade bird seed ornaments and repurpose recycled plastic water bottles into bird baths that we hang in the tree to really make it a home for the birds.
And last but not least, when you're FINALLY done with everything we just mentioned you can chop the rest of that tree into mulch for use in the garden or COMPOST the rest of that tree and turn it into an amazing organic soil amendment that you can then use as the ultimate repurposed idea... great organic nutrition to feed your spring, summer & fall plants and flowers when they start emerging in the Spring. Just remember that you'll want to chop those trees and branches into much smaller pieces and don't forget that trees are a high source of carbon so you'll want to balance it off with a proper nitrogen source to come up with that magic number where compost just happens (we'll be writing an article about that soon, so stay tuned).
If you like our articles, you'll be happy to know that we decided to take on a huge side project at Earthworm Technologies! We're just not content with the lack of real organic gardening advice, tips, and guides available on the internet. In fact, some articles out there are even just plain wrong and teaching the wrong things to people. We've decided that we're going to start an Easy Comprehensive Guide to Organic and Sustainable Gardening!
This will be an ongoing project and guide to which we will add more and more material as time goes by. We have close to 50 topics already written down in our brainstorming agenda ranging in topics from how to compost properly, proper vermicomposting guidelines, how to keep cut flower bouquets fresh organically, how to plant annual and perennial flower gardens, how to create organic garden containers, topics covering urban gardening, overview on garden pests as well as beneficial insects, etc. (and there will be fun topics as well, such as picture lists of our favorite shade garden plants for example).
What do you do with all your holiday trees, wreaths etc.? Do you like to repurpose old items for use in the garden? Share with us...we'd love to hear your ideas, we're always looking to learn new things.