Use it as compost
Aside from spreading the mulch around trees and shrubs, you can also use a little in the compost heap. Don’t include too much as the tough rubbery needles can take quite some time to break down.
Use the tree as a stake
Rather than reducing your tree to mulch or compost, you can strip it bare to create a fantastic frame for flowers or beans to grow up. You can use the unwanted pine needles in compost or sprinkle them on a muddy path to provide grip.
Use the branches
If you strip the branches off the trunk, these can be used to protect your beds during the colder months. One way to do this is to create a frame from the branches and cover it with frost protection fabric. Branches can be bent into an arch which you then cover in the fabric to protect delicate plants, or twisted together to form a wigwam shape over larger plants. Make sure you secure the fabric so that it doesn’t blow away during a windy spell.
Create a bird feeder
Your old tree is a fantastic way to provide much needed food for birds during the winter months. Secure it in a heavy pot that won’t blow over and decorate the branches with suitable food ‘decorations’ (the kids will love helping with this) – for example:
Halve an orange and scoop out the flesh. Attach three or four strings through little holes in the side of the orange to create a hanging basket shape. Fill it with bird seed.
Attach string to a pine cone, making a loop. Dip the cone in peanut butter then cover it in bird seed.
Thread popcorn onto string. using a needle and use as ‘tinsel’.
Mix suet with plenty of bird seed, squish it into cookie cutters and push the shapes out onto greaseproof paper. Partly unwind a paperclip and embed it in each shape to create a hook for hanging. Pop your shapes in the freezer to set.
You can halve and hang up old fruit by attaching string – even if it is bruised or partly rotten. Apples, pears and other fruit will be appreciated by the birds.
Your winter garden
Sam Cumber, our Head Gardener has a few seasonal tasks for the keen gardener and those who need to burn off the Christmas pudding this month:-
♣ Plant bare-root roses, while they are dormant it’s a good time to stock up on summer colour. Select a day when the ground is soft and the weather is kind. Add plenty of well-rotted manure and a well-balanced fertilizer to the planting hole and work into the back filling soil.
♣ Keep it tidy! Leaf litter can harbour pests and disease over the wintertime so give the garden a good going over to remove debris and start the year with a clean slate. Scrub up pots, using a disinfectant solution, that are empty which you are going to use this year
♣ Now is the time to start to think about sowing sweet peas so you have cut flowers for early summer. Soak the seed in tepid water over night or until they swell. Plant in long tubes or cardboard inners from kitchen roll, this creates the long root systems that are required to support the plants. Use fresh compost and plant one seed per inner tube.
♣ If you have a potato stock, ready for planting out, go through them and check for mould or signs of any decomposing stock, before this spreads to other individuals and causes a bigger issue.