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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

The Treat Tree

Repurpose your Christmas tree for feathered friends.
by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree … how beautiful you glow … but now you need to go. Hold that thought. Yes, days after December 25th, your once glowing Christmas tree looks a little sad – and probably dry. Before you toss the no-longer-needed tree in the trash, give some thought to how it can be used outdoors.

It’s fun for all ages to transform an indoor Christmas tree into an outdoor “treat tree” for songbirds. For eye-catching treats, collect 12 to 18 pinecones. Use a popsicle stick or old butter knife to smear peanut butter over each pinecone. Fill an old dish or sturdy paper plate with bird seed of any kind and roll the peanut butter-smeared pinecones in the seed mix. Use twine or leftover gift ribbons to loop a hanger around the top portion of the pinecone. Hang the pinecones on your “treat tree.”

The tree can also support homemade suet feeders, using half of hollowed-out orange and grapefruit skins. Suet can be made from any seed, grain, nuts, fruits and raisins by mixing them with warmed bacon fat, lard or peanut butter. Peanut butter can be mixed with cornmeal or oatmeal to form a suet mixture, too. Place the suet in a tuna or cat food can or similar to container to chill until firm. Cookie cutters can be used for fancier shapes that can be hung.

To embellish your wildlife tree further, string together overripe fruits – blueberries, cranberries, grapes, even slices of oranges and apples. Weave the garland loosely around the tree. Popcorn works, too. Cheerios are easy for youngster’s small hands to string. With winter’s cold temps, your “treat tree” will offer several weeks of much-needed healthy eating for the beautiful birds that will thank you with songs and sensational sights.

photos from Kathy Van Mullekom