If you want to upcycle or recycle your Christmas tree after the holidays, there are plenty of options. A dead or dying tree provides lots of wood for making all sorts of creative and practical things from the wood slices, branches, and twigs.
For more projects also see 50 Creative and Recycled Garden Art Projects.
Upcycling Old Christmas Trees
After the holiday season, there are a lot of xmas trees being tossed out! And that’s a lot of useful wood, either for basic gardening (mulch, edging, plant supports) or countless craft and decor projects.
Once you realize how precious a resource it is, you may just want to ask your neighbors if you can have their unwanted trees too.
Some municipalities collect old Christmas trees for mulching. Some areas still allow burning although it’s less common due to pollution concerns.
Some gardeners like me hang onto them to decompose in their own gardens: decaying wood is an essential source of food and habitat for many living things.
To make use of an old tree, you’ll need a saw (hand or powered) and space to make a mess while you lop off the branches and slice up the trunk.
Or, keep it as it is and use it as a bird feeding station in your garden.
There are numerous things to make. And you don’t have to do it right away: it’s fine to simply stash the tree or wood for later use.
How to Keep a Christmas Tree Fresh Longer
- 1 Start with a freshly cut locally-grown tree. Some are harvested weeks and months before they are sold!
Scotch or Scots Pine, Fraser Fir, Nordmann Fir are known for good needle retention.
- 2 Cut an inch off the stem before decorating.
- 3 Situate tree away from heat sources.
- 4 Use a stand that hold a lot of water (2 gallons) and never let it run dry.
25+ Ways to Reuse Your Tree After ChristmasNEW! Click play to listen:
Prepare the Tree for Reuse
If you plant to use the wood for craft or decor projects, it is easiest to work with the trees when they have dried out and the needles are falling off (or gone).
I like to examine the structure of the tree first and look for any unique branch shapes that I might want to incorporate into a project.
With the tree secured to saw horses, I use my chain saw to remove all of the branches, leaving me with a tree stump and many branches to work with.
Pruners work nicely for removing all the fine twigs.
The next step will depend on what you’re making. Think before you slice.
ID Your Tree
Here are some common types of Christmas trees (varies by region):
- Pine (Scotch, White, Red, Concolor)
- Fir (Balsam, Nordmann, Fraser, Noble, Douglas)
- Spruce (Serbian, Norway)
The National Christmas Tree Association site has images of each type of tree here.
How to Dry Wood in Oven
This Could Get Sappy…And Buggy
Keep in mind that your tree was recently alive with sap inside. When you cut up a Christmas tree for crafting, it can get sticky. The sap releases and it can gum up your saw (or clothes).
There’s not really a simple solution for this other than time. The older the dead tree, the more it dries out.
I like to first use the tree as a bird feeding station in winter, and cut it into craft pieces when it has time to dry out in the summer.
Drying Wood in an Oven
If you’re making indoor projects, you may want to de-bug the wood to kill any insects still living in the wood.
After cutting your wood slices, place them on a lined baking sheet in a 175°F/ 80°C oven for 2-3 hours. Then make your crafts.
Uses for Tree Trunks and Branches
Assuming your tree is all-natural and has no sprays or paints on it, it has many uses in the home and garden.
It’s just like any other wood, except at this point it’s free and has a lovely rustic look.
1 Chop it into firewood and fire starters.
2 Chip it into mulch.
3 Create an outdoor bird feeding station. Secure the tree against a fence and add bird feeders and suet cages.
4 Use the leftover greenery (branches) for winter wreaths, window boxes, and urns.
5 A whole tree provides shelter for birds and animals in the garden or over a pond (fish like shady hiding spots). [Read more about this idea on Treehugger.]
6 Use the wood for DIY garden trellises, arbors, obelisks, privacy screens, and plant supports.
7 Make a didgeridoo.
8 Make a log bird feeder.
9 Create tree branch coat hooks.
10 Craft twig gnomes.
11 Make wood stump snowmen.
Uses for Wood Slices
One tree provides a good number of wood slices! The thinner you slice them, the more you get. I guess you knew that already. There are so many possibilities.
Some trees are not sappy at all and work great. Others can be really sappy and mess up painted surfaces. You just have to be willing to play with it. You know: try stuff out and have fun.
Decorate Wood Slices
Besides leaving the wood in its naturally beautiful state, you can get crafty with all sorts of materials.
The smoother and drier the surface, the better these methods work.
Fridge Magnet Tutorial
- Acrylic craft paints
- Paint pens for wood
- Chalkboard paint
- Woodburning kit
- Outdoor Mod Podge
- Image Transfer Medium
12 Make a wood slice garden border edge (use wood slices or branches and tree trunks).
13 Create wood slice garden path stepping stones.
14 Make a wood slice decorative wreath.
15 Make a bird feeder or fairy house with branches and wood slices.
16 Make wood slice garden signs (put a letter on each wood slice) or form letters with the wood slices.
17 Make wood slice coasters.
18 Make branch candle sticks.
19 Make tealight logs.
20 Make a wood slice clock. Unless your tree is massive, it could just be a little clock.
21 Make seasonal ornaments including wood slice snowmen, winter, and Christmas ornaments.
- For finer crafts, use a circular or other power saw (if the wood is not too sappy) to get nice, smooth cuts. Alternately, you could use a hand saw.
- For more rustic projects, you could also use a chain saw.
I have a small electric one that I really like: Earthwise electric chainsaw.
It’s lightweight, easy to handle, and useful for all sorts of garden work (we get a lot of fallen branches).
- Depending on how cleanly your saw cuts, you may also want to sand the edges of your wood pieces.
There you go! Now go nab some old trees and get crafty!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛