Gardens and Harvests

How to Harvest Your Holiday Tree

How to Harvest Your Holiday Tree

Most Christmas trees end up on the side of the road waiting for the city trash trucks to dispose of it after our festivities are done, but it doesn’t have to be that way! You can harvest your own tree for medicine and merriment all year long. It’s easy to do as long as you bought your tree from a reputable dealer and have verified that it is free of paint and pesticides. I know, I didn’t believe the paint thing either until I saw it with my own eyes this year. Please do not buy painted trees. They just make my heart sad.

To begin, your tree must be dried.

DRIED, NOT DEAD. Nobody wants to use brown needles.

This can be achieved by either letting it sit long enough in your living room or by hanging the individual branches. The following instructions assume that you, like me, kept the tree up long enough to dry pretty much completely on its own. Just remember to stop using the lights on your tree after you’ve stopped watering it. Dried needles are highly flammable.

Start removing branches. I have found the fastest way to do this is with an old fashioned wood saw. Yes, you can use garden shears or scissors on the younger, smaller branches, but a regular wood saw reduces your tree to a standing trunk with a pile of branches beside it in no time. Once you have all of the branches removed from the trunk, cut it into smaller chunks and toss them in your garden. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they begin to break down.

Now that you have a big pile of branches, it is time to break them down into more manageable pieces. Go ahead and put the saw away. As much fun as it was, it is no longer the tool for the job. Garden shears or scissors work great at this point. Or…wire cutters. Just sayin’. Use what you have.

The main goal at this stage is to get rid of as much wood as possible. I snip each little side shoot off until I’m left with nothing but short, straight segments of about a foot or less. I make a pile of discarded branches for the garden and fill a plastic tote or two with the smaller branches and needles.

Pop the needles off the branches. You’ll find your own rhythm here. Sometimes they come off if you just run your hands along the branch. Sometimes you have to give them a slight tug. If you really have to fight for it…they’re not dry enough. Hang the branch up somewhere and check back in a few days. Don’t worry if little bits of twig end up with the needles. Transfer needles into a clean, airtight, glass jar. They are now ready to be used.

You can definitely do this. The pictures took up more space than the directions! If you’ve already tossed your tree, not to worry. There’s a link down below to my shop where you can purchase some of my needles for your very own. And if you aren’t sure why you want to go to all this trouble in the first place, check out the education link.

Fir trees have a surprising number of practical uses. Learn all about them in Magickal and Medicinal Herbs: Fir 101.

Purchase Fir Needles from the Apothecary.

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