First, cut the tree into smaller chunks and gather them into a pile in your yard. Let the pile sit until the pine needles have fallen off and the branches are dry and brittle. Then, use these brown materials as a carbon source for your compost bin, as needed.
The branches are an excellent alternative to straw or wood chips, and will break down slowly over winter, adding nutrients to the soil for spring.
Wood chips block sunlight while still allowing water and air to circulate through, so the soil food web stays intact. When you rake the wood chips aside to plant, you’ll have healthy soil that’s benefited from all the nutrients in the decomposing wood.
After taking all the decorations off your tree, move it outdoors (still in the tree stand) and create your own bird sanctuary (or bird hotel, as I like to call it). You can hang bird feeders and suet cages from the branches, or even a birdhouse or two.
If refilling bird feeders isn’t your thing, you can still nurture the mini ecosystem in your yard by turning your old tree into a wildlife habitat. Simply drag it outside to an out-of-the-way spot in your garden and let it sit for the winter, on its side.