Mother Nature sure knows how to provide the perfect conditions for growing pine trees – laying down a pine needle mulch to squelch weed growth and give the pine trees the particularly acid soil that they need to thrive.
Other plants that like a pine needle mulch are Rhododendrons, blueberries and Arctostaphylos. Oddly enough, these are all what is called ‘ericaceous’ plants – those that have fine hair like roots, urn shaped flowers and absolutely need high pH soil to survive. In lime (alkaline) soils, or with the addition of dolomite lime, these plants just dwindle to nothing.
Pine needle mulch collects for years under pine trees (and other coniferous trees that get labeled as pine trees), making a soft resilient carpet.
The odd hush under really old pine trees is created by the pine needle mulch deadening all sound. Digging down into the duff illustrates how this happens. Generally, a fungus starts to form, with many pale coloured hyphae, or roots.
This holds all the lower layers together, and makes a sponge covering the ground. This protects the usually sandy soil from erosion from heavy rainfalls, and prevents the evaporation of the moisture.
The only drawbacks to using pine needle mulch are that it’s precariously slippery when dry, and also a fire hazard if you garden in a wildfire danger zone. Use a different type of mulch if you’re fire smart gardening.
Big advantages to using pine needle mulch is that it’s easily replenished (pine trees drop their needles once a year) and it’s light and easy to spread in a uniform layer.
To make your own garden mulch from pine needles, rake up the needles into piles, and then run them through a shredder if you have one. Otherwise, composting the needles in a pile will help break them down a bit. Then once they’re spread out under the plants, they’ll pack into a solid yet breathable mat.
Landscaping with mulch gives you the opportunity to salvage and re-use otherwise wasted materials such as what the trees drop. Utilize these free mulching materials whenever you can to provide all the mulch benefits such as moisture retention, weed control and beauty in your garden.