Often, homeowners find themselves stuck choosing between mulch and straw to maintain their flower beds. This job might appear easy, but probably only to veteran gardeners with extensive experience using these materials.
Perhaps, the biggest question any gardener wants to get answers to could be: is mulch better than pine straw?
Generally, mulch is better than pine straw as it preserves moisture in the soil for plants, adds nutrients, and saves you money in the long run. Mulch also remains intact for a more extended period than pine straw.
It is not to say that pine straw is lesser. The two materials are both solid options for your beds in different aspects. But in case you are not sure which one would work best for your situation, follow on in this guide and find out.
Is Mulch Better Than Pine Straw?
There is no doubt that mulch and pine straw are excellent cover materials for the garden or flower beds. Nevertheless, if you compare the two in terms of moisture retention, long-run cost-effectiveness, and soil nutrient enhancement, mulch becomes a better choice for landscape beds.
Mulch has been the traditional soil cover in many homes for a long time to this day. It provides the best qualities of a great flower bed cover.
Mulch also offers a solid moisture barrier to the soil. It means that the soil in your bed doesn’t lose a lot of moisture, especially on hot days. In the end, there is plenty of moisture retained for plants to uptake, and you don’t have to water your plants every other time.
Even better, mulch can stay in place for a very long time before you replace it. On decomposing, it releases nutrients into the soil, something that enhances the growth of your plants in the bed.
When it comes to pine straw, you have a cheap and easy-to-handle flower bed material that’s not bulky and therefore easy to transport. Pine straw provides a profound aesthetic outlook to your bed.
Making it is easy and doesn’t even require tools to install. This material works well as a ground cover, but it’s a short-time solution to your beds.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Mulch vs. Pine Straw?
As earlier indicated, each material has benefits and its fair share of downsides. That’s why not all homeowners love mulch, and not all love pine straw.
Let’s find out the pros and cons of these materials right next.
Pros of Mulch
- Mulch provides an effective moisture barrier on the beds. It helps with soil water retention that will benefit plants big time.
- Mulch is durable. It remains covering the ground for a considerably more extended period.
- If it stays longer, this results in reduced costs for the gardener. You won’t have to pay for more new mulch that often. In the process, it’s a great way to save an extra coin on your landscaping project.
- The mulch releases and adds nutrients into the soil for healthier plants upon decomposition.
- As a weed barrier, mulch does an excellent job smothering any germinating and establishing weeds.
- It offers more options for color
Cons of Mulch
- The biggest con is the bulk of most mulch materials.
- Quite expensive
- It isn’t easy to install, especially if you have a larger area to spread it.
- Mulch doesn’t get the job done as far as you want that easily
- Working on it is time-consuming
Pros of Pine Straw
- Easy to use
- Cost is low
- Installing is easy
- Pine straw is a short-time solution
- It would help if you replaced regularly
- Costly in the long run
- Pine straw can increase acidic conditions in the soil.
The bottom line is to choose the material that favors your current situation.
Does Mulch Last Longer Than Pine Straw?
Most organic mulches, like shredded barks, are bulky and take time to decompose. This means that mulch can last longer than pine straw.
If you’re using mulches, especially on a slope, they resist the pressure of run-off after a heavy downpour. It happens because mulch is bulky, and it’s not buoyant to float on water.
So, it’s stable in the same place even amidst unfavorable weather conditions. That, however, cannot be said of pine straw. Pine straw is lightweight and can be easily blown off by strong winds or swept away by run-off.
Pine straw may last about six months or thereabouts, which means you definitely would need to replenish it twice a year. Once you install it, high-quality mulch needs replacement after one year.
But the timeframe can vary greatly depending on weather conditions, exposure to the sun, and type of mulch, among others.
Homeowners know that the length of time a ground cover stays intact determines the overall costs. Here, you’re likely to spend more dollars to have your beds covered twice in a year with pine straw than with mulch.
Is Mulch More Expensive Than Pine Straw?
One of the most typical questions homeowners ask is whether mulch is more expensive than pine straw. As a whole, mulch is much more expensive than pine straw, but it depends on which side of the coin you approach the matter.
Definitely, you have to spend more money on enough mulch to cover a given space than using pine straw. For instance, one bag of mulch (2-cubic feet bag) may retail at approximately $3.33, and it’s going to spread on a 12 square feet area.
For premium pine straw, the average cost of one bale goes for approximately $4. One bale can also cover a 50 square feet area on the bed.
This shows that mulch is quite expensive, and it can take top dollar to complete a project, whereas pine straw is significantly cheaper. Yet, this is just in the short run.
If you consider the long-run costs, landscaping using pine straw may prove to be a bit more expensive. Pine straw can only run for up to six months, and then you need to replace it.
Hence, you have to purchase new pine straw. Then there’s the cost of transport and installation. If you add these costs and pay for them twice a year, you can easily outrun the cost of putting up mulch instead, which initially looks astronomical.
Can I mix Mulch and Pine Straw?
There will always be a temptation to use both mulch and pine straw in the same project, more so if you can’t choose one over the other. You could be wondering whether the two can be mixed without any fuss.
Occasionally, you can mix mulch and pine straw and still have excellent results on your landscape beds. Even so, you must consider the type of bed you are working on and its location.
If a particular bed is located in the front yard, you want it done nicely and neatly. So, you can have your most preferred mulch type and color applied to it to create the most appealing scene. At the front yard beds, you don’t want much maintenance work going on.
A tree garden in the backyard can look great with pine straw on the ground. Pine straw will also be handy and low cost if used to cover a sizeable natural surface area.
By combining the two types of cover on the same project in your home, you’re able to create a unique sight. Plus, the blend helps to reduce landscaping costs.
Can You Put Mulch Over Old Pine Straw?
Whereas organic mulch breaks down to add nutrients into the soil, pine straw drops the soil pH levels. Because of this, you may be wondering whether it’s prudent to put mulch over old pine straw.
You can put new mulch over old pine straw, but you want to ensure that the pine straw layers are not too much. If there is still a good deal of pine straw, you can tidy it down to a low level before you add your mulch to it.
As you apply the mulch, depending on the state of the old cover, remember the maximum depth you can create is no deeper than 3-4 inches in tree beds or 2 inches in flower beds.
Does Pine Straw Prevent Weeds Better Than Mulch?
Pine straw is a ready-to-go ground cover that protects the soil well, keeping correct temperature and moisture standards. Still, pine straw doesn’t prevent weeds better than mulch can do.
Many organic mulch types do an excellent job of suppressing weeds by smothering. They cut off moisture and light to not reach the soil, preventing weed seed germination.
You cannot say the same about pine straw as it comes with an open structure. With this kind of setup, tiny weed seeds, light, and moisture easily penetrate the soil surface and initiate the growth of weeds.
Beyond that, pine straw can increase acidic conditions in the soil, making the environment unfavorable for plants and conducive for the growth of parasitic weeds like bermudagrass, poison ivy, and Virginia creeper.
With that being said, it’s vital to have a proper plan to eliminate weeds from your landscape beds if you use pine straw for cover. Always make sure that a 3-inch deep layer is maintained.
You also want to pull any weeds sprouting through the cover and apply weed preventers when and where necessary.
How to Lay Pine Straw in a Flower Bed?
Without a doubt, pine straw offers excellent benefits to homeowners. But now, how do you lay pine straw in a flower bed?
Generally, you start by undoing the wire strings that fasten the bale of pine straw. Although it’s packed in compressed layers, the bale is usually hand-baled, so removing the strings won’t be hard.
Once you unbundle the bale, separate the layers and spread them individually. You want to shake them well to ensure the spread is uniform and suitable. Remember, a smooth, appealing appearance results from a good spread.
If you’re covering a new landscape bed, you can add as many layers as it will be effective. But if there is an existing layer of old mulch, you want to add just a thin layer to make things look a little fresher.
Bare dirt requires many layers (about 3-4 inches) of pine straw to ensure the ground base is covered correctly, although areas around root systems should have only a light cover.
As you spread the pine straw, the maximum recommended thickness must not exceed 4 inches. You don’t want to isolate water from penetrating the deeper soil layers in the bed.
Once you finish spreading, add a thin layer on the outside along the edges of the bed. You can now pull this layer of straw towards the borderline using a rake.
As you do this, ensure to tuck pine straw at the borders of the bed. Doing this helps to raise the landscape bed to offer a decent, fluffed-up, nice-looking design.
- What Is Pine Straw?
Pine straw consists of needles that fall from pine trees. When these needle-like leaves drop to the ground and are raked and collected, they can be used as ground cover in landscaping.
2. What Is Mulch Made Of?
Generally, the two types of mulch include organic mulch and inorganic mulch. Organic mulches consist of materials like compost, wood chips, chopped leaves, and grass trimmings. Plus, dried straw, sawdust, and more.
Inorganic mulches are mainly landscape fabrics or synthetics.
3. When Should You Lay Pine Straw?
In winter, you can lay pine straw to give your landscape a freshened look. During this time of the year, most of the old pine straw has been swept away by the wind, and the remaining stand has turned unattractively dull.
So, is mulch better than pine straw? Frankly, mulch and pine straw form excellent ground cover options for most homeowners.
However, before you plan on which one to apply, the type of your landscape bed and location are vital factors to consider. Keep in mind that each type of cover has its benefits and downsides.