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Creative ways to recycle a Christmas tree

CONYERS — You took time to select and decorate the perfect Christmas tree for the holidays. Now put a little forethought and extra time into recycling it.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers suggestions on how to creatively recycle this year’s Christmas tree.

For years, sportsmen have recycled Christmas trees for their benefit later.

“Sunk into private fishing ponds or lakes, Christmas trees make excellent refuge and feeding areas for fish,” said UGA Extension DeKalb County Agent Gary Peiffer.

Extension wildlife specialists suggest anchoring the tree in a large coffee can with concrete first. The concrete weights the tree down so it stands upright. This natural fish attractor will draw bream and bass and offer a safe haven for young fish. For safety’s sake, drop the tree well away from swimming areas.

Wildlife lovers can turn their holiday tree into a winter bird feeder and shelter.

“Just add some orange slices, bread and suet to attract birds and brighten up your winter landscape,” Peiffer said.

A decomposing Christmas tree can also provide valuable food for insects and worms, as well as a good hiding place for birds and other creatures. If you love wildlife more than a perfectly manicured landscape, use the holiday tree to create an untidy thicket habitat for little birds, like cardinals and white-throated sparrows.

Crafty types can clip away branch tips and needles to provide aroma for sachets and potpourris.

UGA Extension horticulturist Matthew Chappell has several suggestions for how to creatively recycle Christmas trees. His list includes the following:

• Whittle a walking stick. “It takes a lot of whittling. You can give it as a gift next Christmas.” This is Chappell’s favorite use.

• Create a coat rack. Cut all the branches off except for a few at the top, those should be trimmed 3 inches to 4 inches from the trunk.

• Build a bottle tree. Cut all the branches about a foot from the trunk and put empty wine bottles on them. “My friend in Charleston, S.C., started that trend in his yard at Folly Beach,” he said. “It’s definitely better with different colored bottles.”

• Craft a longbow. “My brother-in-law made a longbow out of last year’s Christmas tree. A lot of bow hunters are going back to the old style, the old world way of hunting,” Chappell said.

• Shape a vine pole. Trim the branches off, but leave some for vine support. Sink the trunk in the ground and use it as a trellis for climbing plant like a morning glory or clematis.

• Create kindling. Chop up the smaller branches and make kindling for winter fires.

Christmas tree branches and the trunk can also be chipped and turned into valuable mulch for landscape and garden plants. If you don’t have a chipper, take your tree to the local “Bring One For The Chipper” event. To find a location, see the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation website at www.keepgeorgiabeautiful.org/bring_one_for_chipper.asp.