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If you have mature pine trees you have pine needles. Pines drop their needles continuously as older ones mature and new ones form. They look like great material for a mulch and compost but some gardeners avoid them. How should you make use of this resource in your garden?

ines grow in acid soil and many people are afraid that liberal pine needle mulch of pine needles will make their soil acid. Actually, you should first take a look at the presence of healthy pines and assume your soil is acid in the first place. Lime is indicated for most crops and the addition of the pine needles will likely not affect a thing. In some areas people actually truck in pine needles for garden mulch.

As a mulch, pine needles are weed seed free, loose and light, easy to find and often a nuisance elsewhere. Once applied in a three or four inch layer around plants they serve to keep weeds down by blocking sunlight, keep the soil loose by not allowing the sun to bake it into bricks, and prevent evaporation by covering the soil surface. In addition, they will gradually brake down, essentially composting in place, and provide a small amount of nutrient to the plant roots for a long time.

In other words, they make a great mulch. It is advisable not to dig them into the soil after the crop is removed because they are such high carbon that it can take nitrogen form the soil to break them down. However, it is easy to pull them back with a rake, plant a new crop and remulch after the plants are well up. If you are replanting with transplants, just plant through the mulch.

The only serious consideration with pine needle mulch is the presence of terpenes in the needles. These aromatic compounds give us the rich pine smell that is so liked by so many. They may also inhibit seed germination in the soil. While this would be good for weed suppression, it would not be good for that next crop of carrots. However, the terpenes are so aromatic that they dissipate quickly and are seldom if ever a problem for the typical gardener. If you are worried about it, just let the needles sit exposed to the elements for a couple of weeks.

Published at: Recent Health Articleshttp://recenthealtharticles.org

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