The holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue getting some enjoyment out of your Christmas tree. Your tree definitely added a festive flair to your celebration, and you can extend that festivity outdoors after the holidays.
When the weather is chilly, birds and other small wildlife need a place to get out of the cold and wind. Unfortunately, deciduous trees don’t have leaves this time of year and birds may have a hard time finding shelter. This is where your old Christmas tree can come in handy. Instead of hauling the tree to the landfill, put it in your yard, instead. You’ll be providing birds a place to hide from the cold and the tree will add a splash of color to your landscape. The dense needles will provide protection from rain, snow and wind.
You can keep the tree in the tree stand, place it in a large bucket of soil or even dig a hole in your yard in which to place the tree.
The tree can serve double duty in the yard. Not only will it be a great source of shelter, it also can be a source of food. If you made strings of cranberries or popcorn for decorations, leave them on the tree when you take it outside. Other food options that can be hung on the tree include spreading peanut butter on pinecones and rolling them in bird seed; string grapes on pipe cleaners; or slice apples and, using a regular ornament hook, hang the slices on the tree. Your family can have a lot of fun making these food ornaments for the tree. Let your imagination run wild.
If you’d rather not turn the tree into a bird feeder, check with your community about a tree recycling program. Trees are collected and turned into mulch for plants in community parks and gardens.
If you enjoyed seeing the birds around the old Christmas tree, when spring arrives, consider planting a few evergreens such as cherry laurel, wax myrtle, holly, cedar or pine to provide more permanent protection for the bird population in years to come. Adding evergreens to your backyard also gives birds a place to duck for cover from predators such as hawks. An added bonus is some of these evergreens provide berries, which are a much-needed food source when other foods are hard to find.
David Hillock is a consumer horticulturalist with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension.