5 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

a Christmas tree discarded on the sidewalk

Margot Cavin / The Spruce 

The needles may be falling off, and there may be a stray strand of tinsel here and there, but that Christmas tree isn't done working for you yet. Before you toss it on the curb, here are a few ideas for ways to recycle your Christmas tree in your garden.

Provide Shelter for Backyard Wildlife

You can leave the tree right in its stand, and set it out in the yard for the rest of the winter. It can fill in a bare spot, giving you something pretty to look at, but, more importantly, it can provide winter shelter for birds. If you have plenty of trees around, consider laying your tree on its side to provide shelter for mammals such as rabbits.

Use the Branches to Mulch Perennials

Cut long branches from your Christmas tree with loppers or pruners, and lay them over perennials. This is especially useful for perennials that are susceptible to frost heaving, as well as those that are only marginally hardy in your zone. A covering of evergreen branches could be the difference between losing a plant this winter and seeing it bloom again next year.

Start a New Compost Pile

A layer of thin branches—such as evergreen branches—can make a good base for a new compost pile. They allow for a bit of airflow at the bottom of the pile, but keep in mind that the branches will break down more slowly than smaller organic materials. Just trim them down so they fit in your bin, then stack them four to six inches high. After you've got them in, go ahead and start adding your kitchen scraps and other compostables as usual.

Make It Into Mulch

And no, you don't need a fancy chipper/shredder to do this if you don't have one. Try to get into the habit of cutting the thinner Christmas tree branches into little pieces and adding them to the mulched paths between your vegetable garden beds. Simply snip them into one- to two-inch pieces and toss them on the path. It's a cheap way to mulch a pathway, and, as a bonus, this path smells absolutely wonderful when you walk on it!

Use Branches as Pea Brush

Your Christmas tree can even come in handy if you're a gardener who plants peas in the spring! Save the branches from your Christmas tree to stick into the ground wherever you plant your peas. The pea vines will climb the branches—evergreens in particular work well because there are so many little branches for the tendrils to grab onto. Insert the branches into the ground in a crisscross fashion so that one branch helps support the one next to it. You can also tie the branches together where they intersect to help stabilize your pea brush. Plant supports for free—who wouldn't want that?

As far as reusing the trunk of your Christmas tree goes, you can lay it on the ground to use as a rustic garden bed edging (once you've trimmed all of the branches off of it, of course), or use it as a support to grow vining plants, such as morning glories. Even if you can't figure out a way to use the trunk in your garden, it's better to put the trunk out for recycling instead of just tossing the whole tree away. Let's put those Christmas trees to work in our gardens!