Pine straw mulch newbie

victorine72(7a)February 29, 2012

Hi. I live in Richmond, VA in a suburban 'hood that is fairly well wooded. My backyard is mostly taken up by flower beds, and over the years I've relied on wood chip mulch given to me by tree trimming services. However, every year it seems harder and harder to get mulch and when I do, they dump so much of it, no one can use the driveway for two weeks. This year, I'm considering switching to pine straw mulch. I've heard that it is fairly economical and doesn't break down as quickly as other mulches. I've gardened most of my life, but I've never used pine straw, nor do I know any other gardeners who do. My concern is how it will look once the sun/elements cause is to fade, as well as if pine straw has a tendency to blow around-- particularly into the lawn. My lawn and gardens are beautiful, and quite well kept compared to most in my neighborhood, but I'm already on the Homeowner's Association's s*** list for having two rain barrels, a compost bin, and a small veggie bed in plain view of the street. Horrifying, I know. I still shell out the big bucks for shredded dyed hardwood mulch for the beds around the house every year, but I refuse to spend $600 for backyard mulch. Any thoughts, warnings or suggestions are welcomed. I'd hate to dump of bunch of pine straw only to find out there was another way to go.

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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

We have used pine straw mulch before and have been pleased with the results. We used it to mulch a steep area (the slope is steeper than 45 degrees). Wood mulch just rolls downhill, especially if it rains hard. The long strands of the pine straw weave together a bit and hold in place much better.

So I don't think that it would blows around very much either. The color of the pine straw mulch isn't very strong, so I haven't seen that it fades noticeably. There are spray-on mulch colorants, but I haven't tried those. Pine straw isn't readily available here, so I had to find the closest horticultural place that had it (one state over) and have two pallet-loads sent over by freight!

I feel your troubles with the HOA. I could never tolerate living under such conditions. So we live out in a small town on a road with corn fields and sheep and commute.

Give the pine straw a try. It's quite a bit different from shredded hardwood bark mulch, but several of those differences are advantages. You'll not know whether you like the differences between them until you use it.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 8:21AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Pine straw fades very quickly under sunny conditions. When it does so, it can begin to look almost gray. Birds and squirrels can make a huge mess in pine straw when they hide food, search for food, or just for the heck of it. Lots of birds use the needles for nesting material. Those kinds of messes are easily repaired though.

Don't be tempted to top dress several times a year with fresh straw to improve the appearance without stirring up what you already have. It is very easy for pine straw to become matted and hydrophobic at the soil level if you skip this important step. I've never seen it happen with any kind of mulch other than the straw and only then if layers and layer are added.

Try to inspect the pine straw before buying it, if possible. I've known some garden centers to sell bales of old, dusty, improperly stored straw as 'freshly raked' prices. The straw should be pliable and fragrant, and free from such trash. Cones and a few sticks are normal.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 1:13PM
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We have some additional information regarding pine straw mulch that might interest you at

Here is a link that might be useful: Pine Straw Advice website

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:00PM
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As I recall your Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden uses pine straw for mulches. You might want to visit them and aks about it.
There are no downsides to pine straw mulch, unless you are one of those that think your mulch should be the star attraction to your garden. I have had birds, of all kinds, scratch in all the materials I have used including grass clippings, wood chips, straw and have never seen them make a "mess".

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 7:08AM
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I had a beautiful bed of pine straw mulch around a perfectly manicured patch of blueberries. It was only the second time in 12 years that the patch looked so great.(1st time was with woodchips)

I was absolutely pleased with the way it turned out, until spring arrived and I discovered that voles had a bumper crop winter in that mulch and chewed up a large percentage of the stems. Be careful of that aspect, otherwise I do indeed like pinestraw myself. :)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 11:38AM
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