Pine Needles Make Good Mulch

Jeanne Grunert
Pine needles

Pine needles make good mulch so much so that a new product called pine straw mulch has emerged as a good mulch for areas exposed to heavy rain. It's inexpensive, lightweight, and instead of washing away as other mulches do, it knits together to form a protective mat. Among the many types of mulch, pine needles are an excellent choice for the home garden.

Pine Needles Make Good Mulch for Gardens

Pine needles make good mulch for gardens and landscapes.

Reasons to Use Pine Needle Mulch

There are many reasons to use pine straw or pine needle mulch. These include:

  • Water conservation: Pine needles form a thick, protective mat during heavy rains. This allows moisture to penetrate the pine needles but prevents erosion, trapping water where it's needed near surface roots. They also reduce rainwater runoff and make an excellent mulch for hillsides.
  • Weed prevention: Like most mulches, a thick layer of pine needles suppresses weeds. Many weed seeds need light to germinate. Mulch prevents such seeds from sprouting. It also prevents wind borne seeds from sprouting because it forms a barrier between soil and seed.
  • Improves the soil: Pine needles decompose and add organic material to the soil. They also aerate the soil and improve drainage as they decompose. Pine straw mulch may also help regulate the soil temperature. Just keeping the soil a few degrees above freezing for a few days longer in the fall can actually extend the growing season. And unlike bark mulches, it does not add excessive minerals to the soil. Some hardwood mulches can add too much calcium and other minerals to the soil.
  • Ecologically sound: Pine trees shed their needles annually, forming a thick carpet on forest floors. To harvest and create pine straw mulch, the needles are simply raked or scooped up, processed, bagged and sold. Trees do not need to be cut down or put through a chipper as is done to make hardwood mulch, pine bark nuggets or other wood chips. Trees can continue to grow for many years to come. The trees may eventually be harvested, but foresters get more years of growth from them. Pine mulch also beats down slower than other mulches, so your investment lasts longer than typical hardwood or bark mulches.

Buying Pine Bark Mulch

Now that you know the answer to the question, "Do pine needles make good mulch," you may be curious about how to purchase or use it. If you're fortunate enough to live near a large pine tree, you can scoop up some of the needles to use as mulch. It's much easier to purchase bags of pine straw mulch at the garden center. You can purchase pine bark mulch at home and garden centers nationwide, large retailers and nursery and garden centers. It's very lightweight too, so as an added plus you might not need help carrying bags out to your car!

How To Use

Spread pine bark mulch as you would any mulch, around shrubs, trees and plants in the garden. It may be purchased in bales or bags. To calculate how much to buy, consider that you will need approximately half a pound of pine straw or pine needle mulch for every square foot of garden space. Spread it in a layer about two inches deep. It settles and compacts over time.

For more information about pine mulch, please see:

  • Texas A & M University's Cooperative Extension pamphlet, which is free for you to download.
  • Pine Straw Info, everything you need to know about pine straw on one website.
Pine Needles Make Good Mulch