Let Nature Care For Your Garden With Pine Needles

by Polly

3It is  wise to let Nature care for your garden with pine needles. They appear to grace the garden with very little effort on your part.

Pine needles make up some of the most effective organic mulch you can use in your garden. Ever notice how damp the area under a pine tree is, where the needles have landed?

That is because the pine needles are a naturally occurring barrier of water preservation. The waxy coating on pine needles allows water to bead and slide of the needle into the soil.

But, that same waxy coating also prevents rapid evaporation and keeps water beneath the needle layer and in the soil. And,

You might already have noticed that Mother Nature doesn’t like bare soil. Bare patches soon have something growing on them, usually weeds.

That’s nature’s quick and dirty way of ensuring that soil doesn’t wash away or blow away. But if you’re a gardener, you aren’t exactly in love with weeds, and you should try mulching.

My favorite benefit of pine needle mulch has to do with weeds. Almost any mulch will cut down on the number of weeds in your garden. With pine needle mulch, the few weeds that manage to survive are incredibly easy to pull, roots and all.

As the pine straw mulch naturally goes through decomposition, it also naturally adds valuable organic nutrients to the soil.

When pine needles naturally break down, they help to acidify the soil, which makes superior mulch for acid-loving plants, trees and shrubs. Pine straw provides an extra layer, or buffer, to reduce compaction on the soil below.

There is a misconception that they are too acidic but they usually test at pH 6.5. The thing to be aware of is a substance called terpenes. It is what gives the needles that great smell.

This can interfere with seed germination and generally stunt growth. Just be sure the needles are dried out and going towards brown. Most of the terpenes will be released by then and should pose no problem.

Pine needles are also good in a compost pile. Although pine needles will not cause problems with acidity in the long term, they do break down relatively slowly.

The reason for the slow decay is that the needles are covered with a waxy layer that resists bacteria and fungi, and, like other fallen leaves, they have an excess of carbon relative to nitrogen.

The process could be speeded up by shredding the needles, thereby offering bacteria and fungi greater surface area at which to “chew” away.

Well, pine needles indeed create acidic effect in the compost but there are certain ways of countering that acidic effect.

Sprinkle some limestone on dried pine needles as it will eliminate acidic factor and will improve the feel of finished compost, making it less sticky. Don’t be too heavy-handed with limestone on a compost pile because it wastes nutrients and causes odors as nitrogen is converted to gaseous ammonia.

Plants that do well with pine straw mulch are plants that love acid. These include chrysanthemum and roses,azaleas and blueberries, rhododendrons and hollies, among others. It’s best to leave a free area around the plant stems to avoid mold.

Some gardeners find that prickly needles help to discourage slugs. Apparently, the soft-bellied pests hate crawling over pine needles.

My neighbor uses pine needles to line his walk paths in the vegetable garden. Pine needles keep weeds from growing and his walk paths look wonderful.

Want  to know more  about pine needles?

Then, post your question below.

Tweet me in Tweeter and follow me on Facebook.

Yours truly, Polly – Organic Gardener

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rooster Shamblin January 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm

http://roostershamblin.wordpress.com/ would you please spend a few minutes and check out my blog. I am a farmer who has been raising over fifty breeds of chickens for forty years.

chris hearn March 8, 2010 at 8:32 am

I have two giant blue spruce trees and 2 cedar/ evergreen trees. I live in Iowa and am working of making my whole yard a edible garden sanctury . Every year I have a very nice layer of pine needles under each tree, how can I incorporate all of this into mulch for the gardens?

Polly March 8, 2010 at 11:06 am

Green pine needles are acidic but lose their acidity over a short period of time as they dry out and are exposed to rain and outside weather conditions. So,after planting apply this mulch. Test this on acid-loving plants first and then spread it to the rest of the plants. Mulching with pine needles adds organic material and nutrients to soil and reduces weeds

evergreen tree care May 17, 2010 at 3:54 pm

We really liked your writing, please keep it up!

Compact Fluorescent Bulb : October 28, 2010 at 10:18 am

our garden tools are always made by Stanley Tools because they are the best when it comes to quality and durability;;*

Jasmine November 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Is it OK to leave the pine needles indoor the pine trees for mulch? I’ve been told it is too acidic for plants to grow but not certain ones like the strawberry, blueberry, azalea & rhododendron. Especially it’s own TREE the pine tree… Am I right?

Polly November 8, 2010 at 6:44 pm

You’re completely right. Pine needles are too acidic for many plants, except strawberries, blueberries, rhodies…, azaleas

Corner Cabinet · November 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm

you should always keep your garden tools in low humidity area to prevent them from getting rusty “~,

Joanne March 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Is there a difference in the acicity effect on the soil with pine needle mulch vs spruce needle mulch?

Polly March 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

The difference is very slight.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: