Pine Needle Mulch: Pros & Cons

Pine needle mulch has a lot going for it. It looks great, it's completely free (assuming you have pine trees on your property) and its light and airy texture allows water and air to easily pass through. It also does an effective job at shading out weeds and preventing evaporation and is a good soil insulator in both the summer and winter.

So what's not to love?

The main objection pine straw mulch gets is its acidity. When chopped up and mixed in to your soil in the fall, pine needles do a good job getting an overly alkaline garden soil pH down to a more desirable level.

But what if your soil pH is right where you want it? Will using pine needle mulch throw things out of whack?

The short answer is that it may temporarily bring soil pH down but most likely won't have a lasting effect. Due to their waxy coating, this is especially true if you don't chop them up before applying.

pine needle mulchTo be on the safe side, lay down a thin layer of compost, then add your pine straw mulch. The compost will serve as a buffer between your soil and pine needles and will contribute additional nutrients to balance out any acidity from the needles. It will also allow you to save your all-valuable compost for other applications.

And don't forget that some plants, including azaleas, blueberries, potatoes and rhododendrons, actually prefer soil that's more acidic which suggests that pine straw mulch may be ideal for these plants.

Regardless of whether you use it or other types of mulch, use a good soil pH tester at least once a year to make sure your soil's pH is prime for your plants.

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