Pine needles make an excellent mulch for certain gardens. If you mulch hostas with too thick a layer of mulch, the air will not have access to the soil surface. This offers quite a lot of appeal for me personally since I live in the “Big Thicket” of Southeast Texas where Pine trees are everywhere. Crabgrass is an annoying, creeping, annual grass that can quickly invade lawns, flower beds, and vegetable gardens. It is light and easy to work with, known to last longer than many other types of mulch and does well at holding in soil moisture. However, there are considerations to ponder before you get started: Pine needles decompose slowly so they do not have to be re-applied as often as other mulches. Pine straw mulch … Long pine needles tend to join or knit together, creating a sort-of blanket-like mulch layer. Lush, colorful flower beds increase curb appeal while attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. If you are interested in learning to make your own compost to use as a mulch or for other purposes, be sure to read our series of articles on composting. Use them in a thick layer on a hill for mulch – they won’t tend to blow away or be washed away like other mulches. People always ask me if the acid in the pine needles is good for the plants. This is an important consideration. As the mulch settles, it compacts to approximately 1 1/2 inches deep. See....this is how gardening rumors get passed on. Mulching plants contains soil erosion, retains moisture in the soil and provides a steady supply of nutrients to plants as the needles decompose. plants from disease, keeps plants cooler during the hot summer months, helps prevent soil compaction, and much more. Pine needles are preferred by many gardeners because they are a natural, readily available and inexpensive way to mulch garden plants. One of pine straw’s biggest advantages is also its downfall. Pine needle mulching is easy to apply, cheap and effective. Because of its combustion characteristics, pine needles are recommended for mulching only in areas at least 30 feet from the home . It offers a lot of advantages over pine needles. When you start shopping for pine needle straw mulch, you’ll discover that there are three standard lengths available from most suppliers: 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch straw. Lots of blue tits here. My hope is that this information will help you decide whether or not pine straw is the right mulching solution for you. When he persisted, I changed the subject. Even with high winds, long needles stay in place very well. Mulching is generally used to save water, suppress weeds and improve the soil around plants but it also gives your garden a neat, tidy appearance and can reduce the amount of time spent on tasks such as watering and weeding. Pine straw can provide benefits to your flower bed or garden when used as a mulch. If there is one complaint that I’ve had with bark mulch in the past it has been that it tends to float when we have heavy rainfall. If you are thinking about using pine needles to mulch your garden or flower bed, you will need to know the facts. Furthermore, it breaks down slowly so frequent topping up is not … There's a small chance that pine bark mulch could spread pine wilt to certain pine trees. Pine straw mulching is organic and it adds nutrients to the soil. Pine needles are full of acid, so they’re not the best option for all of your plants. Pine needles make good mulch so much so that a new product called pine straw mulch has emerged as a good mulch for areas exposed to heavy rain. It helps to keep weed seeds from germinating. This episode is meant for any level of gardener who wants to learn about the benefits of pine needle mulch. Choose areas that will benefit the plants that will appreciate the acidity of the needles as they decompose. But it is fair to say that it can hold its own in this area. Mulching blocks light and leads to suffocation of weeds. There's also a small danger of spreading pine wilt via pine bark mulch. 139. Pine needle mulch is an organic material that is readily available at garden centers and nurseries. It breaks down fairly rapidly, altho there's variation among the types of pine straw. Pine needles are readily available anywhere there are pine trees and you can often get them for free. Pine Needles are less expensive and go further. It doesn't wash away as easily as wood chips. But if you only use them to mulch things, I don't think they would be quite so dangerous.Sweep them up from areas that are not flower beds -- lawn, walks, decks etc.Then they won't provide a consistent path for fire. Pine straw is much lighter and easier to work with than most other mulching options. Since I don't mulch seed beds and use pine straw only in established beds, retardation of germination is a good thing. The pine straw also keeps the soil cooler in the summer. As with grain straw, a 1″-2″ thick layer of pine needles makes an excellent mulch for the berry patch. Pine needle mulch (aka pine straw) is the most common mulch material in my area. Pine Straw offers unique advantages for mulching. Pine wilt is a fatal disease that's caused by the nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, which travels between trees via the pine sawyer beetle. Bark mulch, of course, is very common. To avoid this, do not pour a lot of mulch. If fresh pine bark mulch from a diseased tree is placed near a wound on a susceptible tree, it's possible that the nematode could infect the tree. Use pine needles like other mulch. nother issue sometimes raised in the pine-straw-as-mulch debate is that of terpenes in the needles. 6. Pull away the needles in spring when using pine straw for garden mulch, so that tender new shoots can easily penetrate to reach the sun and air. Pine needles do have their shortcomings, which are the flip side of their virtues. Oddly enough, these are all what is called ‘ericaceous’ plants – those that have fine hair like roots, urn shaped flowers and absolutely need low pH soil to survive. Due to their size and woodiness, pine bark mulch nuggets pose a problem in areas that experience heavy rainfall. Alternatives To Pine Straw Mulch. I have a few plants that look a bit worse for wear and I can't figure out where I have gone wrong with them. I’ve spent my share of weekends shoveling bark mulch and rocks for flower bed covering. Pull away the needles in spring when using pine straw for garden mulch, so that tender new shoots can easily penetrate to reach the sun and air. In lime (alkaline) soils, or with the addition of dolomite lime, these plants just dwindle to nothing. I want to break down the research I’ve done on this. This is probably the greatest single appeal of pine straw as a mulch. Acid soil conditions only suit certain plants, like rhododendrons (Rhododendron sinogrande, USDA zones 8 through 10) and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana, USDA zones 3 through 8). It's much easier to purchase bags of pine straw mulch at the garden center. Pine straw piles provide cover for small insects and rodents. Yes, pine needles are a bit of a fire hazard. Acidic-loving plants respond particularly well to pine-needl… Pine straw blowing out of the beds in the wind was one of the key issues cited. Pine straw mulch is best to prevent soil erosion. It breaks down fairly rapidly, altho there's variation among the types of pine straw. Prevent Erosion on Your Property. According to "Decoding Gardening Advice" by Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, pine needles may contain chemicals that keep seeds from germinating. Pine Straw Mulch Application. Or, on the flip side, that we should grow plants like blueberries or rhododendrons that like a lower soil pH near pine trees to take advantage of that acidity? In addition, the pine needles provide cover for the snake as it moves through the flower bed or garden. Using pine needles as mulch in the vegetable garden. The fragrance of pine needles on sunny days is also an added benefit when they are used as garden mulch. Missouri Botanical Garden: Rhododendron Sinogrande, Missouri Botanical Garden: Hamamelis Virginiana, Colorado State University Extension: Pine Wilt Disease, Missouri Botanical Garden: Pinus Sylvestris. In your fruit, herb, and vegetable gardens, blueberries, garlic, onions and tomatoes are just a few crops that will… Pine straw is very flammable when dry and is in fact the second most combustible commonly used mulch, second only to shredded rubber mulch. The needles are an impressive 12 to 18 inches. So it's possible that decomposing pine bark mulch could rob landscape plants of nitrogen and inhibit their growth. Benefits of Using Pine Needles. During my research, I ran across an old blog titled Garden of Aaron. At present, people find it hard to get pine needles off the mulch. The selling point here is that it takes longer to break down than bark mulches and therefore, in theory, should last longer before replacement is needed. Use pine needles like other mulch. This gardener posted a glowing review of pine straw as mulch some years back, raving about the benefits. Pine straw mulch does not attract insects like termites. But mulch that deep may not work around short plants. Pine bark mulch and other woody mulches use up nitrogen in the soil and reduce its fertility, but the effects are complex. When deciding on a weed barrier for a flower bed or garden, one idea that comes up often is the use of Pine Straw. Prevent Erosion on Your Property. Doing that, however, can create welcoming habitats for pests (more on that later). This allows air to penetrate the mulch to get to the soil. As the needles break down, the acid goes into the ground and occasionally destroys turf and other plants that do not tolerate high levels of acid. Spread pine needle mulch 3 inches deep the first time you use it. Whole pine needles are light and airy and can be used as winter mulches in rose and perennial beds. I agree that you will have to fight to keep your lawn alive unless you're out there everyday raking out all the needles. In "Pine Needle Mulch Benefits, Exposed" - DIY Garden Minute Ep. The soil directly underneath established pine trees will be composed dry soil that has years of pine needles at various stages of decomposition. It can be a little irritating with the needles sticking you as you work it but compared to shoveling heavy piles of bark, yeah, pine straw wins this one. However, top dressing, or mulched materials break down so slowly that they hardly make a difference to a soil's pH. Planting acid-loving flowers and shrubs that benefit from the pine needle mulch reduces your work and benefit the plants. Oddly enough I kind of like the bed of Pine needles because it almost looks like mulch, and its free! I had a large flower bed next to our driveway in our previous home and heavy rains always resulted in bark mulch debris all over the driveway. in dry sandy areas. Needles take decades to decompose and because of this, they do not acidify the soil as was once thought. Before laying down mulch, prepare the area by weeding and removing sticks, rocks and dead plant material. Click here for Paul’s author page. The fragrance of pine needles on sunny days is also an added benefit when they are used as garden mulch. A major benefit of pine straw, an organic mulch, is the effect of the organic matter as it breaks down in the soil. The disease only affects some non-native pine trees, including mugo pine (Pinus mugo) and Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), both hardy in USDA zones 2 through 7. When woody mulches like pine bark decay, they remove nitrogen, which plants need in order to grow. Have you heard you should avoid growing plants near pine trees due to acidity from the pine needles? So only put down pine needles in areas where you wish to kill the vegetation. When used constantly over several years, though, pine bark mulch can change the soil pH and use up nitrogen, affecting the growth of small plants. Thriving Yard is an affiliate for companies including Amazon Associates and earn a commission on qualifying purchases. Experiment with mulches such as sawdust or pine needles to deter pests. What to Do When Tomato Plant Stems Shrivel at Dirt Level, Remedy for Nitrogen Overdose on Tomato Plants, Long-Term Effects of Wood Chips on Vegetable Growth, New Jersey Agriculture Agricultural Experiment Station: Problems With Over-Mulching Trees and Shrubs, The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service: Mulching Your Trees and Landscapes. The pine straw also keeps the soil cooler in the summer. Experiment with mulches such as sawdust or pine needles to deter pests. If your yard is covered with pine needles from several mature pine trees, use the needles as mulch rather than bagging and discarding them. 2. They also stay loose as they decompose and don’t compact like other mulches, like leaf litter and wood chips, do. There are several reasons to choose pine needles for your mulching needs. I can't use either because even if it's deep in a planting hole they get the scent and dig the whole plant up. Does anyone know if it's specifically pine needles, or would other conifer droppings also work? Unless you pile a lot on you may find it very disappointing as a weed deterrent. He knows exactly what the challenges are to nurturing a thriving yard in difficult soil. It's inexpensive, lightweight, and instead of washing away as other mulches do, it knits together to form a protective mat. Pine mulch on my blueberry plants. Green's work appears in SFGate, Mom.me, The Pink Plumber and many home services blogs . But that didn't stop me from telling lots of people that pine needles lower pH. As an added benefit, it is also available for free to many homeowners who live in areas with pine trees. Some people fear that pine needles are too acidic for use in our gardens. (So don't put pine needles … This attracts snakes in search of a food source. Pine straw mulch offers cover for insects and rodents. You also need less long needle mulch to cover a large area. Everything is not rosy and rainbows when it comes to mulching with pine needles. Dry pine needles … As long as you have a healthy growing pine tree with plenty of fallen needles, there’s no need to buy standard mulch. Consequently, pine bark mulch isn't likely to remove nitrogen from around deep plant roots. Upon further research, it seems like pine needles may not actually lower the pH of the soil. Also, pine needles are easily blown around. Terpenes are chemical molecules said to retard germination and new growth. 62 - we'll explain how you can re-purpose those pine needles in your garden. Rocks. The acidity of pine needle mulch remains at the soil's surface and does not alter the soil around plants' roots. However, the roots of trees, shrubs and other large plants penetrate deep into the soil, far from the layer of mulch on the surface. Like any mulch, pine needles provide protection for roots and help preserve moisture in the soil. They are not massive trees but they are big enough that they drop lots of needles. Pine needles, especially longer ones, tend to “knit” themselves together. This site is a participant in affiliate programs such as Amazon Associates and earns from qualifying purchases. If you use pine needle straw mulch, then the product does not wash away or float out of beds as other options do. They also stay loose as they decompose and don’t compact like other mulches, like leaf litter and wood chips, do. Long needle pine straw is from the Southern Yellow pine tree. It is such a prolific nuisance that there are multiple sprays and chemical control... 5 Tips for Creating Beautiful, Low-Maintenance Flower Beds. They do not find any solution to get rid of pine needles. A nice gust of wind can litter your yard with pine needles. You would like to grow plants and flowers in your yard, but some of the beds are located under pine trees. 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