Pine Straw Mulch - Pine Needle for Winterizing Your Garden

By Terry Gray

Besides the fact Pine Straw mulch is a sustainable, renewable resource, it's so wonderful and lightweight to work with pine needle and looks very attractive. Young seedlings can grow through pine needle, water can filter down through it, the soil can breathe and nevertheless pine straw still holds in moisture. It lasts much longer than other similar materials and pine needle won't float off with the first drenching rain.

In fall mulching with pine straw has an significant use since temperatures in the late fall to winter months can change radically. The ground heaves as it freezes and thaws, forcing the root systems of many fragile plants up from the soil and exposing them to the elements. Nearly all plants are much healthier when they have a layer of pine needle mulch spread over their roots.

When mulching with pine straw you should wait until the ground is frosty or most icy before you add the pine needle. Any earlier application will encourage mold and mildew to form on the surface. Generally, a 2- to 3-inch bed of pine needle mulch situated over the root area of a plant will provide a noticeable difference in the plant's health. Established plants will show less stress and better growth. Just be sure to pull pine straw mulch an inch or two out from the stems of shrubs or from the trunks of trees. If pine needle mulch is heaped up against trunks or stems, it can trap too much h2o and advance decay on the bark.

Many people make the misunderstanding of using less reliable fall mulch such as hay in their garden. Hay is not a good option to pine straw since hay often carries seeds that will eventually sprout and cause weed problems in your garden bed in the spring. Pine straw comes from several different species of pine trees that drop their pine needles or ?straw? naturally through the year. Once the pine needle drops to the ground, it is cleaned and baled, without ever cutting down a single tree. Since it is produced naturally, pine straw sometimes is referred to as the "guilt-free" mulch. Each species' of pine needle will have its own unique characteristics, such as pine needle length, wax content and pine needle flexibility. The Loblolly species of pine straw, for instance, has a pine needle length ranging from about six to nine inches, making it easy to utilize and shape. Also, the needle size is optimal for allowing the dirt to breathe well while allowing excellent water infiltration.

Ideally, garden mulch for the winter is added in the fall to protect against sudden and extreme temperature dips before plants have had a chance to fully harden. A few inches of pine straw mulch can provide a cushion of as much as 10 degrees above ambient air temperatures which is just enough to keep roots growing. And certainly, a top dressing of pine needle mulch offers ornamental appeal, devising the landscape to look cared for at a time when the landscape can look a little underwhelming. - 29857

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