pine needles?

sorie6(6b ok.)July 6, 2011

Can they be used as mulch or put in the compost? I've heard there is to much acid for our soil. Clay!!! Thanks

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tommysmommy(Colorado)

I've read pine needles are not recommended for composting. There's a composting site here on garden web, you ought to check it out.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 9:05AM
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digit(ID/WA)

Personally, I am a great believer in the value of pine needles!

First, I have soil with a fairly high pH. But, my understanding is that a truly low pH compost is unlikely. In other words, the decomposition of plant material kind of works out towards neutral - the organisms that make the process happen, require it.

There is a compost demonstration put on by a local park department each year. I've shown up a couple of times. Each time, their demo compost was very simply ID'ed: "Pine Needle Compost." I think it was probably 100%.

My Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening rates pine needles as having nearly as much nitrogen as cow manure has. Smells better, too . . .

And finally, pine needles tend not to pack down.

Steve

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 9:15AM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

just don't use them as a substitute in for TP in the woods.

I have pine needles in some of the leaves I pick up every year, they always break down, no problem. And yes, they don't pack down which helps keep air pockets between the leaves, cuz boy do the leaves pack, can't get my pitch fork back!

Billie

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 12:33PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Sorie,

When I abscond with my neighbor's huge leaf bags in fall, several of them always have a LARGE percentage of needles from a long needle pine they have, and I happily put them on my compost pile along with the leaves and what-not-all I come up with. I figure that our soil is so alkaline out here to start with, that even if they do maintain some/all of the acidity as they decompose, I'm GLAD to have something that might add a little bit of acidity to my soil. But I have found that they tend to decompose more slowly than most of the other stuff--I think maybe because of the tannins, so plan ahead! They'll decompose faster if they're well mixed in with other stuff and kept pretty wet, but, even, then, they take longer than other stuff.

I also get shorter pine needles from my own tree (not sure what kind) when I cut the grass, and since I use my grass clippings to mulch the veggie garden, I wind up with those needles in the mulch, and while they don't seem to cause any problems at all, they are really nasty to work with as a mulch because they're SO poky! I try to use the grass clippings around the plants where I'm not gonna be digging around in the soil with my hands too much!

Point taken on the pine needles, Billie, but I'm sure you'll be glad to know THIS! Unopened Rabbitbrush flower tufts make great TP out in the high desert! Well! Maybe not GREAT, but definitely "acceptable" when the only alternatives are rocks, wood, and sand--or tiny little leaves that are less than 1/2" across!

;-)
Skybird

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 6:22PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

I have several pines on the property and have taken to mulching directly with pine needles. Our soil is pretty alkaline so I'm not worried about acidity, and they seem to do a decent job of retaining moisture (though moisture isn't much of a problem this summer).

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 3:26PM
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david52 Zone 6

I planted Scots Pines along two of my borders, and finally, over the last few years, I'm building up enough of a layer of pine needle mulch - 6 to 8" - that almost all the weeds are smothered out.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 5:56PM
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