Mulch Naturally with Pine Needles (Pine Straw)

The prickly parts of a pine tree aren’t just a sweet-scented addition to the holiday season.

Pine needles are handy to have all year long. When it’s time to mulch your plants and trees, consider using the needles that have fallen in your yard. A Davey blog reader, Shirley, had this idea, and she reached out to ask whether or not pine needles actually make good mulch.

The answer? A resounding yes! Read on to learn when and why you should mulch with pine needles.

Using Pine Needles (Pine Straw) For Mulching

Mulching with pine needles comes with great perks. Pine needles are excellent at keeping weeds at bay, help water flow seamlessly into the soil, and they break down slowly, adding nutrients back into the soil.

When to Use Pine Straw vs. Mulch

The biggest upside to using pine needles for mulch is the cost. As long as you have a healthy growing pine tree with plenty of fallen needles, there’s no need to buy standard mulch. Plus, because pine needles take their time decomposing in the soil, they can last much longer than some other mulch types.

You should also opt for pine needles or pine straw in particularly windy or rainy areas. Traditional mulch can get washed and blown away, but pine needles interlock as they settle in, creating a durable, weather-proof groundcover.

Pine straw isn’t as practical when you don’t have a needle-bearing tree in your yard. Bundles of pine needles might be hard to come by, whereas standard mulch is readily available.

Important: Avoid mulching with pine needles in wildfire-prone areas.

The Best Pine Straw Mulch Applications

Cover your flower or tree beds with a two-to-four-inch layer of pine straw. For trees, be sure to keep the mulch a couple of inches away from the trunk, and spread it all the way out to the drip line, the furthest edges of the tree’s canopy.

For more detailed tips on how to mulch trees, check out this blog post.

What Plants Can I Use Pine Needles On?

Use pine straw any and everywhere in your yard—it works great for tree, flower and vegetable gardens. In some cases, pine needles acidify the soil as they break down, so acid-loving plants like holly, azaleas, and rhododendrons appreciate a coat of pine needles.

Still doing research? Read our mulch selection guide for more info on your mulch options.

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