Christmas Tree Upcycling

After the holidays are said and done, it’s time to take down the tree and start a new year. In years past we’ve always recycled our Christmas tree either at the curb, where our recycler picks it up, or through a local Boy Scout group who also recycles it. This year, we decided to try something new. Before we recycle, we’re up-cycling our Christmas tree into a wildlife feeding station! See below for a picture of the finished product and to learn more about how we created this up-cycled Christmas tree!

The first step was to remove all the ornaments, lights, and the tree topper. Next step, move the tree to the backyard. We tried it against our fence, attaching it with twine so it would stay upright, but ultimately decided it would work best if we put it back in a tree stand and set it up in front of our kitchen window so we humans can maximize the entertainment value! 

Once the tree was set up, we started re-decorating it. We had stopped by our local “Backyard Bird Shop” the day before and purchased a mix of seeds pressed into the shape of bells (seed bells), some really beautiful nesting balls made of woven grape vines with the centers filled with local Alpaca wool, and a thistle sock filled with black nyger thistle seed. The nesting balls are really great because they can be refilled with nesting material and hung out again and again over the years.

My husband and son joined me in hanging all our new wildlife ornaments on the tree outside, creating a wonderful new family tradition. It was fun to have a second shot at decorating the tree, especially since we knew these ornaments would be so very appreciated and probably short-lived. 

The finishing touch was adding some liquid suet to the branch tips of the tree. I melted about a cup of organic virgin coconut oil in a stock pot, added a 36 ounce jar of Adam’s crunchy peanut butter, and about two cups of corn meal, and slowly stirred over low heat until everything was combined. 

Next, I split the suet in two. One half I poured into ice cube trays to freeze and use later. I used some garden twine cut into approximately eight inch lengths to create hangers for the suet cubes to make it easier to hang them from the tree after they freeze. I folded the twine pieces in half, gave the ends a twist to hold them together and dipped them into the suet cubes before they set up in the freezer. The other half of the suet I put in a large glass measuring cup, took it outside, and poured it all over the branch tips of the tree.

The liquid suet was fun to add to the branch tips. I poured it on the top branches and it dripped down onto lower branches and coated them too. It was cold enough outside that it set up quickly and stuck to the branches. 

It took about twenty minutes for the first squirrel to bravely jump into the tree and begin licking the suet off the branches. It didn’t take more than five minutes after that first squirrel for many more to jump on the suet bandwagon! So far we’ve seen three squirrels at one time on the tree, all licking branches in their own areas. Sorry for the poor image quality below - I took this shot from inside my kitchen through a window screen.

We’ve only seen a couple of birds so far, but the tree has only been up for a few hours and it’s late in the day. We expect to see more bird activity tomorrow and through the coming weeks. Our plan is to keep the Christmas tree wildlife feeding station up until all the seed, suet and nesting material is gone. It should help the local wildlife have enough food and material to make it through the winter with a warm nest to boot!

This was such a fun family activity to do during the holiday break! The wildlife in our yard loves the result and I feel better about chopping down that Christmas tree last month, knowing it will serve multiple purposes before eventually being returned to our garden as mulch. If you have a Christmas tree you’d like to upcycle before you recycle it, consider turning it into a wildlife feeding station. It is a nice way to spread the holiday cheer from your living room to Mother Nature. Happy Gardening! 

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