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FREE: Pine Needles aka Pine Straw for Mulch

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We have some really tall beautiful pine trees in our yard. They provide more than shade or a place for birds and squirrels to nest. They provide some significant pine needles as well as some annoying pine cones.
We Southerners are used to pine trees, they are known to grow everywhere and harvested by many for its pine needles or “pine straw” advantages. “Pine trees are probably the most important timber in the world. Used for more than shade, also number one timber source, paper mill source and resin for paint.” – Locke
Pine straw is economically and ecologically beneficial to many horticulturists and landscapers. Though there are many opinions on the best mulch for gardens, pine straw has a lot of advantages and scientific research to prove its a very good choice. Pine straw is “cost-effective and long-lasting mulch that is spread easily and never compacts. Landscapers love its ability to conserve moisture, buffer ground plantings from extreme temperatures, and that it does not harbor fungus or termites.”-Laura Douglass, Staff Writer for The Pilot Newspaper, located in NC, where the Longleaf Pine Tree is the state tree.
Others have the opinion that pine straw is good for flower beds but not garden beds. The three things most worrisome in a garden bed is weeds, disease and bugs. The opinion of one former farmer is pine straw has no nutritional value to garden beds like cedar mulch or wood chips that deter bugs. Pine straw can have ticks and red bugs on them. This farmer also makes a good point that no animals eat pine straw. The only edible thing on a pine tree is a young green pinecone that a squirrel eats the center of. So this is his point of view and experience.
On the other hand though pine straw retards the evaporation of moisture and blocks sun from drawing moisture out and is great insulation. Pine straw also rots slower compared to other mulch so you don’t have to turn it as often. Though most have to hoe garden beds regularly, using pine straw does prevent weeds from getting through, making less work for the farmer. “When applied correctly, pine straw prevents evaporation of water from the soil, reduces the growth of weeds, and helps to prevent soil compaction and erosion. Pine straw also protects plants from freezing conditions, helping keep the soil around the plants at a stable temperature. This is important for newer plants and those with shallow root systems. Plus, pine straw will improve the soil structure as it decays.” –Lowes Home Improvement

So overall pine needles, also called pine straw, is a great choice for mulch in flower beds or vegetable gardens. It is lighter to carry than wood mulch and much less expensive as little as one dollar a bale. It is also very resourceful or free for those with too many pine trees which produce too much pine straw that needs to be repurposed. “Pine needles and pine bark should be watched closely in vegetable gardens as they can raise the acidic levels of the soil.” All a part of a sustainable world we seek to have.

References:
Locke, Don C. Contemporary Education; Terre Haute, Ind. Vol. 59, Iss. 3, (Spring 1988): 130.
The Pilot Newspaper, Moore County, NC
Farmer James

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