(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)
Gather Your Supplies
Make sure you have an assortment of organic fruit for your DIY ornaments. Eye-catching options include apple and pear slices, pineapple slices, starfruit slices, kiwi slices, figs, and slices of citrus (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits). Organic is important, as pesticide residue on the skin of conventional fruits can be harmful to birds (just be sure to steer clear of the 6 things you should never feed backyard birds).
You’ll also need ribbon to hang your fruit ornaments. And if you plan to make edible garlands, make sure you have some fresh cranberries, thread or fishing line, and a large needle.
Related: Why It’s So Important To Feed Your Backyard Birds This Winter
Make Your Ornaments
Dry your own fruit, or purchase organic dried fare, to avoid feeding birds and other woodland critters commercial products with preservatives. The good news: you can do it right in your oven without a dehydrator. Here’s how:
1) Set your oven to its lowest temperature.
2) Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with a silicone mat.
3) Slice your fruit as thinly as possible (a mandoline is ideal for this purpose), then dip the slices in lemon-lime soda (or ascorbic acid) to keep them from becoming discolored.
4) Punch a small hole near the top edge of each fruit slice with a skewer.
5) Lay the fruit slices in a single layer on the prepared pan and bake them for 4 to 6 hours, or until the slices are completely dried. (Go ahead and string your cranberry and popcorn garlands while they cook!)
6) Slip a piece of ribbon or a metal ornament hook through the hole before so it can hang to tree branches.
Related: 7 Unique DIY Holiday Crafts That Celebrate Nature
Finally, hang your ornaments and garland, and get ready for some serious bird watching. Outfitted with dried edibles, you tree should last a couple weeks before it begins looking scraggly.