Tap to Read ➤

How Effective is Pine Needle Mulch for Garden Plants?

Leena Palande
Using easily available pine needle mulch for a garden can be an effective way of protecting the plants from both, extreme cold and scorching heat. While explaining the benefits of pine straw mulch, here's a list of plants that love pine straw acid.

Did You Know?

According to the Manataka American Indian Council, the tea made from freshly cut and newly fallen pine needles helps relieve respiratory and sinus symptoms like cough, nasal congestion, and sore throat.
Mulch works as a protective cover at the base of plants. Insulating the soil, it protects the plants from temperature fluctuations. Mulching is quite essential for growing plants, especially for tender, newer plants.
It helps protect plants with shallow root systems. There exist two basic kinds of mulch - organic and inorganic. Organic mulch is prepared from chopped leaves, cut branches, grass clippings, sawdust, compost, wood chips, straw, shredded bark, pine needles, and even paper.
Depending upon the need, you may have to use inorganic mulch like gravel, stones, black plastic, cardboard sheets, and various types of landscape fabrics.
These days, pine straw, a natural, organic, landscaping mulch (garden mulch), is available commercially, especially in those areas where pine trees grow in abundance. It plays an important role in landscaping. It is commonly used in home and commercial landscapes, foundation planting, natural areas, flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, pathways, and steep banks.
This mulch is inexpensive to purchase in bales. Obviously, those who have pine trees on their property can get it free of cost. The trees shed their needles (dry foliage) throughout the year. It is quite easy to collect (hand-raking), bale, use, and store the needles.
The needles are dropped regularly. So, there is no need to cut down or harm the tree. Pine needle mulch is one of the best, natural, attractive, easy-to-use mulch for landscaping purposes.

Advantages of Pine Needle Mulch

➺ It is easy to collect and spread the needles around the plants.

➺ Water can pass through the needles easily.
➺ Mulching blocks light and leads to suffocation of weeds. Thus, it reduces the growth of weeds around the plant.

➺ The needles interlock after spreading, and do not move easily. So, pine needle mulch is the perfect mulch for hills and slopes. It doesn't wash away as easily as wood chips. Even with high winds, long needles stay in place very well.
➺ It decomposes slowly. The rate of decomposition is slower than that of the bark material. Thus, its benefits last longer.

➺ It protects the plant from extreme heat by preventing evaporation of water from the soil. Thus, it keeps the soil around the plant moist and cool.
➺ It prevents the erosion of soil, thus protecting unstable areas.

➺ It promotes the aeration of soil. It allows the soil to breathe, and prevents it from becoming dense and compacted.

➺ It protects the plants from frost and freezing cold, as it helps keep the soil around the plant warm.
➺ With its auburn-like color, this decorative covering can enhance the beauty of a garden.

➺ It is one of the most environment-friendly, easily available, natural, organic material for mulching.

➺ Pine straw improves the soil structure as it decays and decomposes. The mulch adds valuable nutrients like calcium, nitrogen, and phosphorus to the soil.
➺ It is always better than harsh chemicals and inorganic materials.

➺ It helps the soil retain water and keeps the plants hydrated.

➺ As the needles decompose, they acidify the soil, making it perfect for acid-loving plants, trees, and shrubs. Pine straw mulch has an acidic level of 6.0 - 6.5 pH (slightly acidic), which is suitable for most plants.
➺ Building contractors may spread pine straw at construction sites to prevent the soil from being disturbed too much by cement as well as heavy equipment.

➺ As it makes the garden weed-free and keeps the soil moist, the owner needs to spend less time watering and weeding.
➺ Perfect soil conditions help reduce pest problems too. The natural blanket of pine straw can keep a garden insect- and rodent-free. The needles discourage rodents from feasting on the bark.

➺ Termites dislike pine straw mulch. They might accompany hard wood mulch.

How to Use

You can spread the needles with your hand. The layer can be 2 to 3 inches deep. Do not spread the needles exactly at the base of the plant. They should be spread 2 to 3 inches away from the plant bases, and 6 - 12 inches away from the large trunks of trees.
If you are spreading them around a small tree, the straw bed at its base can be 3 inches deep and 2 feet in diameter. Increase the depth of the straw bed to six inches if it is very cold. Types of pine straw can vary by region, but deeper the bed, better will be the weed control. One large box (24"×24"×24") of pine straw can cover 200 sq ft, 2 inches deep.

When to Use

If you are using the straw mulch for protecting the plants and to improve the quality of the soil, you should replace it once a year. If you are using it for enhancing the beauty of your garden, you may have to replace it twice a year; in spring and before winter.
You can apply the mulch during fall to protect the plants from severe winter. Spring applications can help increase tilth, and can help curb those pesky spring weeds.

Small Plants that Love Pine Needle Mulch

  • Zinnias
  • Marigolds
  • Hydrangeas
  • Magnolias
  • Snapdragons
  • Rhododendrons
  • Fuchsias
  • Dogwoods
  • Holly
  • Azaleas
  • Camellias
  • Gardenias
  • Spruce
  • Roses
  • Almost all evergreens
  • Ferns
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mint
  • Tomatoes
Pine straw mulch, a natural soil enhancer, is affordable and easily available. The needles are light and easy-to-apply. Moreover, the mulch has a multitude of benefits in both, home and public gardens.