Do Pine Needles Make Good Mulch?

Including a layer of mulch to your backyard not solely helps beautify the area but additionally advantages the crops and surrounding atmosphere. However with so many differing kinds out there, which materials must you select?

In the event you reside in an space with plenty of pine bushes, the needles are a available and inexpensive useful resource. Pine needles, also called pine straw, cowl the bottom in addition to wooden chips, straw, and different frequent forms of mulch.

I’ll clarify the advantages and downsides so you may make the choice for your self. Plus, I’ll clear up a number of frequent misconceptions surrounding utilizing pine straw as mulch.

The Quick Reply

Pine needles, aka pine straw, make glorious mulch in lots of areas. Making use of them a number of inches deep prevents weeds, conserves moisture, and reduces erosion. Plus, their waxy coating makes them gradual to interrupt down, so that you solely have to use them as soon as per yr.

The Lengthy Reply

Pine needles make nice mulch in most gardens. Nevertheless, earlier than you resolve to make use of them, take into account the next components.

The Advantages

Top view of a bed with Pine needle mulch, pine cones and sprouts. The mulch consists of dry pine needles. They are slender, oblong, narrow, and have a golden brown color. The sprouts produce upright stems with long, thin, flat, ribbon-like green leaves. Pine cones are cone-shaped reproductive structures produced by pine trees.
Pine straw mulch reduces erosion, retains moisture, suppresses weeds, enriches soil, and has a light-weight texture.

The needles from pine bushes present most of the similar advantages as different forms of mulch, plus a number of distinctive benefits, relying on the place you reside.

So far as environmental advantages go, pine straw provides the next:

  • Decreases soil erosion and runoff
  • Reduces evaporation from the soil floor
  • Retains soil cool through the summer time
  • Limits weeds
  • Offers a good atmosphere for helpful soil organisms
  • Provides natural matter to the soil

Since they’re natural materials, they break down and enrich the soil. They’re an incredible possibility if you wish to keep away from the waste and power use related to plastic mulches and panorama material.

One other profit is their gentle and fluffy texture. Because the needles don’t compact as a lot as supplies like leaves and wooden chips, they’re much less more likely to type a dense mat. Subsequently, water and air proceed to movement out and in of the soil, limiting anaerobic situations and flooding. Plus, their gentle weight means they’re straightforward to unfold!

Pine straw can also be a cheap materials, particularly for those who reside in an space with many pine bushes. Because the needles are reasonably gentle, you may rake, bag, and transport them to the world you’d prefer to mulch. And for those who don’t wish to gather your individual needles, you should buy bales of pine straw at dwelling enchancment shops and backyard facilities.

A remaining advantage of pine straw is its sturdiness! Even with ample moisture and heat temperatures, a number of inches on a backyard mattress will take one to 2 years to interrupt down. Subsequently, you solely have to use pine straw as soon as annually. Because the lengthy life is because of the waxy coating on the surface of the needles, forego shredding needles.

The Drawbacks

Garlic plant sprouts growing through mulch. Garlic plants (Allium sativum) exhibit a distinctive appearance characterized by long, slender, and lance-shaped leaves that emerge from a central stem, forming a cluster. The mulch consists of long, slender needles of a golden brown hue.
Some discover the reddish-brown colour much less appropriate for gardening aesthetics.

Whereas pine straw is straightforward to search out in areas with many pine bushes, it’s troublesome to amass in areas crammed with deciduous bushes or barren landscapes. In the event you reside in a spot with plenty of maples, oaks, or different deciduous bushes, take into account mulching with leaves as a substitute.

Relying on who you ask, the pure reddish-brown colour is one other potential disadvantage. Whereas I discover this terra cotta colour pleasant, it could not match what each gardener is on the lookout for.

Affect on Soil pH

Close-up of a thick layer of mulch and pine cones on the ground. Mulch features long, slender needles that interlock to create a textured and airy layer. The color of the pine needle mulch is a warm golden brown. The needles lay loosely on the soil, forming a lightweight and breathable covering.
When composted, their pH turns into impartial.

In the event you cling round gardening circles lengthy sufficient, you’ll hear some individuals point out that pine needles lower soil pH. In different phrases, they make the soil extra acidic. However is that this declare true?

There’s no denying that these needles have an acidic pH. Their pH falls between 3.2 and three.8, whereas a impartial pH is 7.0. Nevertheless, including them to the highest of the soil doesn’t essentially elevate the pH.

While you watch them break down on prime of the soil or in a compost pile, it’s straightforward to suppose this pH course of magically happens. However a group of invisible microbes are the powerhouses working the present. These micro organism and fungi work to interrupt down giant particles and neutralize acidic and primary substances. That implies that as soon as composted, they’ve a near impartial pH.

Searching for proof to again this up? Then, take a look at a research performed by of us at Washington State College Extension. These specialists sought to look at the usage of ponderosa needles as a carbon supply in compost making and handle residents’ issues with the needles’ waxy cuticles and low pH.

To begin the experiment, they broke the pine needles into three classes:

  • Complete needles from the present yr
  • Shredded needles from the present yr
  • Shredded needles that had been allowed to take a seat for one yr

The experimenters blended every sort of pine needle with espresso grounds, grass clippings, and dried hardwood leaves, then positioned every combination in GeoBins designed for dwelling composting. They accomplished 4 replicates for every group.

Inside three months, all the GeoBins contained compost that was prepared to make use of within the backyard. Not solely did the supplies break down, however the pH of every compost was at or close to impartial. Meaning you may compost them with out worrying they may create acidic compost. Equally, you may relaxation assured that utilizing them gained’t drastically decrease the soil pH.

You should still be questioning why the soil pH beneath pine bushes is acidic. Whereas it’s straightforward to imagine pine needles decrease the soil pH, keep in mind pine bushes can solely develop in acidic soil. Subsequently, they solely seem the place the soil was acidic earlier than their arrival.

Contemplating Sort

Close-up of gathering needles on the ground using an old rake. Dry pine needles have a distinct appearance characterized by their long, slender, and needle-like structure. These needles are arranged in clusters and feature a fine texture.
Numerous pine species produce different-sized needles, however all work nicely as mulch.

Whereas every kind are related in composition, every pine species produces distinctive needles. Some pines, just like the japanese white pine, pink pine, and ponderosa pine, have needles which might be a number of inches lengthy, whereas bushes just like the Jack pine and shortleaf pine sport shorter needles. Every kind have an analogous texture, however bigger needles are just a little bit simpler to gather.

You don’t want to chop down branches to acquire the needles. Whereas all pine bushes are coniferous, they slowly shed their needles as they develop. These fallen needles gather on the bottom, the place you may simply rake them into piles after which transport them to your required location.


Close-up of a young Squash seedling. Sazhene has two oval smooth cotyledons, short green stems covered with small white hairs, at the tips of which true leaves grow. These leaves are slightly lobed and have fine serrated edges.
Calculate the wanted quantity primarily based in your backyard dimension and unfold in spring for weed management.

First, decide how a lot you’ll want. Measure the size and width of your backyard (or no matter space you wish to cowl), then multiply the 2 numbers collectively to find out the world. Every bale of pine straw will cowl about 40 sq. ft for those who apply it at a price of two to 3 inches. So, in case your backyard is 20 ft by 6 ft or 120 sq. ft, you’ll want three bales of pine straw.

After getting your straw available, it’s time to unfold it. When you can apply it any time of the yr, spring is a perfect time because it permits you to smoother weed seeds which have but to emerge. Plus, by overlaying the bottom whereas crops are nonetheless small, you’ll keep away from water splashing up from the soil floor and, due to this fact, restrict the unfold of illness.

You’ll be able to apply mulch both earlier than or after you plant annuals within the spring. Spreading it earlier than planting limits the necessity for precision. Nevertheless, you’ll have to push again the mulch from areas the place you’d prefer to plant. In the event you select to mulch after you plant, be sure that to go away small crops uncovered.

Irrespective of which possibility you select, purpose for a depth of two to 3 inches. This prevents weeds, conserves moisture, and stabilizes temperature with out utilizing extra materials. I discover one of the best ways to unfold pine straw is to shake it over the soil with my palms. Nevertheless, it’s also possible to apply it with a hay fork.

So long as you apply the correct quantity of fabric, you solely have to reapply pine straw annually. In the event you see a number of naked spots in between main mulching occasions, simply sprinkle some extra to cowl the soil.

Ultimate Ideas

In the event you reside in an space with plentiful pine bushes, go forward and use the needles as mulch! Making use of a number of inches of the needles will hold down weeds and restrict erosion and evaporation. And no matter anybody else tells you, do not forget that the pine needles gained’t drastically have an effect on soil pH.

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