I got questions from many people asking if they could mulch pine needles. Some ask if these needles can have any adverse effects on the plants or the soil. I’ll answer these and other questions about mulching pine needles here.
Can you mulch pine needles? You ask.
Yes, you can mulch pine needles. They make a good thick mulch for your garden for 3-4 years. People use them as mulch to keep weeds down and maintain soil moisture. You can also use the pine needles as mulch when they’re still green. Pine needles take around four years to decompose.
This article answers if you can mulch pine needles and explains when, how, and its consequences. Keep reading.
Also CHeck: Are Pine Needles Good Mulch For Tomatoes?
Can You Mulch Pine Needles?
Yes, you can apply pine needles to your garden as mulch. They’re easy to spread around your garden and don’t compact upon decomposition. They easily prevent any weeds from growing since they create a stiff mat over the ground.
You may have a pine tree that constantly litters your compound. These fallen pine straws can help if applied in the garden as mulch. In this case, they reduce pollution in the compound and benefit your flower garden.
You don’t have to worry when you’re done with them in the garden. Pine needles are light and easy to rake off the flowerbed. They don’t form a thick rain-impervious mat or become too thick even after long.
Also, pine needles are cheap and readily available compared to other mulch types. You can easily rake them below pine trees annually.
Do Pine Needles Make Good Mulch?
Pine needles make a perfect mulch, especially in areas where heavy rains and winds are expected. Pine needles knit together instead of washing away as other mulches do. Any current or storm can’t blow these pine needles easily. It also remains permeable to air and water.
Here are other reasons why pine needles make good mulch:
- Helps In Water Conservation
Pine needles knit together as the rainy season begins, forming a thick mat. This mat allows water to move to the soil and prevents soil erosion.
Massive rainfall drops land on the mulch first before reaching the ground. It also prevents sheet, galley, and splash erosion. It’s, therefore, the best mulch alternative for a hilly garden.
Other than preventing erosion, it prevents water from evaporating from the soil. That maintains the soil moisture during the dry season.
- Diminish Weeds
A thick layer of pine needles is a weed suppressant. Just like other mulch types, it cuts off any light from reaching the weeds, making it difficult for them to germinate.
With this mulch in place, wind-borne seeds can’t find their way into your garden. Here’s why. Pine needle mulch acts as an effective barrier between the soil and seed.
- Adds Nutrients To The Soil
After a while, the pine needles decompose, adding organic nutrients to the soil. They also allow drainage into the ground and aerate the soil. Therefore, they enable soil organisms and roots to function normally.
During winter, pine needles maintain the soil temperature slightly above freezing point, increasing the growing season.
Pine needles, however, don’t add excessive minerals to your soil compared to other wood mulch. For example, hardwood tree mulch adds too large quantities of calcium which ruins your soil.
- Pine Needles Are Ecologically Sound
Pine trees annually shed their leaves, forming thick carpets on your compound and forest floors. To collect pine needles mulch, you simply need to rake, scoop, and bag them up. You don’t have to cut any tree as is done for other wood chips.
Trees continue to grow for many years, and you can eventually harvest them for other purposes.
Pine straw mulch also lasts for a longer time in the garden than wood chips. It can be used as a remedy for deforestation.
Can I Put Pine Needles In The Garden When They’re Still Green?
You can mulch with your pine needles when they’re still green. Once the needles fall from the pine trees, you can immediately collect them and spread them in the garden. Applying them while they’re still green is nothing to worry about since they soon dry up.
Storing them and waiting for them to dry up can be a waste of time. You can also lack adequate storage space for the pine needles.
Are Pine Needles Good For a Garden?
Yes, pine needles are suitable for your garden. However, many people believe that pine needles can change the soil’s pH levels. Of course, pine needles have a pH of 3.2 to 3.8, which is acidic.
On the other hand, these high acidic pH levels only occur when needles are fresh from the tree. If you mulch the new pine straws right away, you may notice a drop in the soil pH. However, this small change can’t damage the plants.
As the pine needles grow older and start decomposing, you notice that the soil pH comes back to neutral. Therefore, pine needles don’t damage your plants or acidify your soil.
How Long Does It Take For Pine Mulch To Decompose?
Pine needles take about 3-4 years before they decompose completely. Once the pine needles grow old, the pine trees shed them off. These pine needles have a waxy cuticle that prevents water loss by transpiration during their lifetime.
Do these leaves start decomposing immediately? The answer is no! It’s because the cuticle prevents the pine needles from decaying faster. That’s the reason why many landscapers prefer them over wood mulch. Once you notice that the pine straw mulch starts to decompose, you can use it in a compost pile.
Why Do People Use Pine Needle Mulch?
Many people use pine needle mulch because it’s cheap and readily available. You can collect the pine needles easily under blossomed pine trees since they are light. It’s also an environmentally conservative measure.
Besides, pine needle mulch is also easy to install. In addition, it prevents water loss and erosion in hilly gardens. It lasts longer in the garden saving on frequent replacement costs.
Some gardeners use pine straw as mulch before reusing it in a compost pile. It doesn’t attract insects and bugs due to its acidic nature, protecting the plants.
These benefits make pine needle mulch a piece of cake for many landscapers.
How Do You Mulch With Pine Needles?
To mulch with pine needles, rake the pine needles from the tree shelters and pile them in one place. You can use a shredder to cut the needles into smaller pieces. Then, spread them out in the garden. They’ll pack below the plants and form a solid yet permeable mat.
You can use the following recommended mulch thickness around the plants.
- 2-3 inches(5-6 cm): In moderately moisturized soil.
- Five inches(12.5 cm): Dry and sandy soil.
- 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm): Containerized plants.
Keep the mulch four inches from the stems of woody plants to prevent decay. Remember to weed these remaining spaces regularly.
Cover the entire garden bed while leaving a 1.5-inch space from the stems for other plants. Landscaping with pine needles mulch allows you to reuse and salvage the tree wastes.
Can You Mulch Pine Needles With A Lawn Mower?
You can mulch pine needles with a standard lawnmower with a mulching blade. Besides, mulching them with a lawnmower is easier than using a leaf blower to blow them away.
If the number of pine needles is massive, use them in your gardens as mulch. They create a better appearance of your compound and prevent weeds in the garden. It also makes a healthier appearance in your garden.
Are Pine Needles Good For Garden Compost?
Yes, pine needles are good for garden compost but are under limitations. They make excellent and nutritious compost for your garden and plants. Yet, there are some cautions to using pine straw for composting. Why?
They take ages to decompose. Therefore, you can add other better composting elements for better results. Also, pine straws have a thick waxy cuticle that prevents fungi and bacteria from breaking them down.
Alternatively, their acidic nature prevents the activity of the microorganisms on the compost. So, I recommend using the pine straws as mulch for a year before adding them to a compost pile. That way, it is neutral and takes less time to decompose.
What Grows Well In Pine Needles?
Newly planted annual flowers grow excellently in pine needles mulch. These flowers include Marigolds, Zinnias, and Snapdragons.
Pine mulch provides a conducive environment for plants to grow. It also encourages constant growth since the pine needles decompose slowly, releasing nutrients into the soil.
Pine needles, also called pine straws, can be used for mulching. Their availability and lightness make them a landscaper’s favorite, especially where they have pine trees in their neighborhood.
It doesn’t only help in mulching but also works to clean your environment.
Pine needles help in weed control and prevent soil erosion. It also keeps your garden wet even during the dry season. It maintains a warmer temperature in the soil during winter, supporting the plants’ lives.
Utilize this free mulch in the ways I’ve illustrated above to ensure maximum benefits when mulching pine needles.