What is Pine Straw Mulch?

Anna T.

Pine straw mulch is a popular type of gardening mulch. It is made up entirely of the needles that fall from pine trees. This type of mulch is usually inexpensive, and most people are able to apply it with ease. Pine straw is used for mulch in many areas around the world, but tends to be extremely popular in the southern United States. This is probably because much of the pine straw used for mulch is harvested there.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

When pine trees drop their needles, it can be a disadvantage to the ground surrounding the tree. This is primarily due to the high acid content in the needles. As the needles break down, the acid goes into the ground and occasionally destroys turf and other plants that do not tolerate high levels of acid. Many people remedy this problem by using the dead needles as mulch in their gardens. Most garden experts recommend using pine straw mulch only for plants that benefit from excess levels of acid in the soil, such as azaleas, roses, rhododendrons and such vegetables as onions or garlic.

Other reasons why pine straw mulch may be so popular are that it stands up well to lots of rain without washing away, and it tends to do a good job of keeping weeds at bay. Weeds that do manage to grow up through a layer of pine straw are typically very weak and easy to pull out. Another possible benefit of pine straw mulch is that insects attracted to bark mulches, such as termites, normally leave pine straw alone.

One of the primary reasons for using pine straw mulch, or any other type of mulch, is because it acts as insulation for plants. When the weather is too hot, the layer of mulch around the top often helps to keep plants from overheating. During the cold winter months, the mulch may protect vulnerable root systems from freezing as well.

It is often recommended that pine straw be applied to a depth of roughly 3 inches (7 cm) across an area. This amount should last for between three and five months before it is necessary to add more. The layer of pine straw should be even, but it is important to leave some space between plants instead of completely covering the garden bed or area. The extra space should allow for better air circulation and keep the plants from becoming dehydrated.

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Discussion Comments


Once pine needles fall from the trees, they lose their acidity quickly and the soil buffers the acidity. I heard pinestraw is acidic and will make my soil acidic and is only good for acid loving plants. Usually the reason turf and other plants have problems growing under pine trees is they take the majority of the water from the soil and shade the area under them.

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