7 clever ways to reuse your real Christmas tree after the holidays

Old Christmas fir tree
Old Christmas fir tree (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As the festive season draws to a close, that also means it’s time to take down our sparkly decorations and dispose of the annual Christmas tree. And for those who love their real trees, it can be a shame to simply throw it out to landfill until next year.

The good news is, there are clever ways to reuse your real Christmas tree, and get the most out of it beyond the holidays. Plus it’s great for the environment, and can be beneficial to wildlife too. So if you don’t want to throw out your old festive tree, here are seven ways you can reuse your Christmas tree to last all year round. 

If you’ve ever wondered which is better, check out real Christmas tree versus fake to help you decide which one to get next year.  

1. Chop it up for outdoor firewood

Firewood logs in crates

Firewood logs in crates (Image credit: Shutterstock)

There’s nothing more cozy than a warm, crackling fire during the cold season. So why not reuse your old tree for firewood? Simply take the tree outdoors, and use a loper or other garden cutting apparatus to trim off all of the tree branches. Then, start sawing or cutting the branches from the bottom of the tree, and work your way upward. Once you have your branches, you can then cut these into logs to fit in your outdoor firepit for kindling.

And we're serious about the "outdoor" part of that use. Never use this wood on indoor fireplaces however, as fresh trees will burn with a dangerously high intensity which can present a fire hazard. A toxic chemical known as creosote can also be produced, which can build up and block the chimney, potentially leading to chimney fires.   

2. Use for compost 

Cutting tree in pieces

Cutting tree in pieces (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have a compost pile or bin, old Christmas trees can be composted, and used around the garden. Experts advise to strip the needles from the branches first before cutting or shredding the tree into small lengths or pieces. This will help the tree to break down quicker, as large branches could take some time. Once you add to the compost, this will eventually create nutrient-rich soil, and organic fertilizer, especially if you want to make your grass greener all year round. 

3. Make wood chip mulch 

Someone picking up mulch while wearing gardening gloves

Someone picking up mulch while wearing gardening gloves (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Similarly, you can use your Christmas tree to make natural, wood chip mulch to use around trees and shrubs around the garden. “Pine wood and needles are excellent mulch-making materials,” suggests Chris Bonnett, the founder of Gardening Express.  “Let the tree dry, put the branches into a shredder and let the wood chips rot before using them to mulch around trees and shrubs. If you don’t have a wood chipper then pine needles work well also since they dry quickly but decompose slowly.” 

If you don't own a shredder, you can rent one, borrow from a friend/neighbor, or contact your local gardening center.

4. Use wood chippings for paths  

Wood chippings

Wood chippings (Image credit: Shuttestock)

If you have excess wood chips, you can also spread them over garden paths and borders. Wood chips are incredibly versatile, and can also make a decorative feature in your backyard or outdoor space. 

“A layer of wood chips will keep away weeds, hold moisture in the soil and create texture in the garden”, agrees Bonnett. What’s more, buying wood chips from stores can be costly, so you’ll be saving money in the long-run. 

5. Upcycle wood slices or twigs for crafts

Making DIY wood crafts

Making DIY wood crafts (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you love arts and crafts, there are a variety of creative ways to reuse your Christmas tree. Whether you want to reuse twigs and wood slices for DIY decorations, coasters for glasses, garden signs or wall decor, this is a Pinterest dream! 

“For example, you can make a beautiful wreath from the branches that can be hung on your door all year long,” suggests Bonnett, “You’ll just need some binding wire, scissors, glue and any extra decorations you’d like to see on your wreath.” 

In addition, the pine needles from your Christmas tree have a fresh, wintery scent, making them ideal for fragrant sachets. Simply gather the needles into a small, organza bag and tie a ribbon at the top. These can then be placed inside drawers or wardrobes to make your clothing smell fresh.  

6. Leave outside for a bird sanctuary

Bird perched on bird feeder

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you don't want to shred your tree, you can reuse your Christmas tree to attract and protect wildlife. Trees make a great bird shelter, especially in the colder months, and you can support wildlife by letting the tree sit in the garden over winter. “This will provide a shelter for little animals and birds to nestle in during harsh weather conditions,” says Bonnett, “You can also hang bird food, slices of fruit or seed cakes on the branches to provide some snacks for the wildlife”. 

If you’re unsure what to feed your fluffy visitors, check out our helpful guide on feeding birds in the winter: top tips and what to avoid

7. Reuse branches as plant stakes 

Wood stakes on plant

Wood stakes on plant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Dried branches can be used as stakes to support young plants during winds or harsh winter conditions. Experts advise to insert the stakes about 2 to 3 inches from the stem of the plant to avoid damaging the roots. It’s also vital to set the stake at a slight angle to give the plant more protection.  

How to recycle a Christmas tree?

Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you didn’t want to reuse your old tree however, you can always recycle it. Check to see if your local area has a curbside collection program, where they will pick up your tree to make chippings or mulch. If not, there may be a recycling drop-off point where you can simply take your tree to be recycled for various things, such as festive wreaths. 

Be sure to check out our guide on how to store Christmas decorations safely. And did you know you can learn how to grow a Christmas tree and keep it for next year? 

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!