Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Repurposing Christmas Trees

Cut Christmas tree dusted with snow on the side of the road.

Hello, fellow readers,

My heart sinks when I see a Christmas tree tossed curbside right after New Year’s Day. I want to knock on the door and share that it’s not even the twelfth day of Christmas yet.

Most know the legendary carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, which begins – “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.” But many don’t know that the Twelve Days of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and ends on January 6th when the three wise men come upon baby Jesus.

Twelfth-Day-of-Christmas-Wooden-OrnamentKeep your tree standing until after Little Christmas.

The twelfth day of Christmas is also called Three Kings Day, the Epiphany, or Little Christmas, and surely justifies keeping your tree standing until at least a few days after that. Unless you used a living balled and burlap or container tree, my favs, in which case only seven to ten days inside a heated home is suggested. (Check out the previous column on Live Christmas Trees for a how-to.)

How to Extend the Joy after January 6th

Even after January 6th, it still feels sad to see Christmas trees thrown on the side of the road unless your township gathers them to turn them into mulch rather than putting them in a landfill. Beyond mulching them, though, there is more joy these beauties can provide.

Potted-Christmas-TreeWhy not move your undecorated tree outside, keeping it in the stand? Then add heart-shaped ornaments for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, or any other wintery decorations or finds from your garden that tickle your fancy.

Or adorn your retired Christmas tree with bird food such as suet and birdseed made into ornaments. Or frost pinecones with natural peanut butter, then roll them in birdseed. Even unbuttered and unsalted, strung popcorn looks charming.

After a winter of enjoying your tree outside, turn it into an animal shelter come spring. If you have a wooded area or permission to add to someone else’s, place it in a brush pile. Or, create a habitat for fish or water insects by sinking your tree in a pond, with permission.

Jason from Washington, NJ, saves his tree to use as a structure to grow climbing beans or cucumbers. Great idea, Jason. Santa would be proud. Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

There’s more to the story in The Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

Column Updated 12/17/23 

Related Stories you’ll enjoy

Legend of Holly & Christmas Trees

Ellie’s Living Christmas Tree

There’s a nifty article on how to make Bird Seed Ornaments on


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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