Pine trees are a type of conifer tree. That means that they have needles on their branches instead of leaves. Pine trees also do not bear any flowers or fruit. Instead, pine cones protect their seeds. Pine trees can grow anywhere in the world except Antarctica.
Evergreen trees shed pine needles year-round. Pine needles have a waxy coating that protects them from the winter cold. However, once the pine needles fall off the tree, they begin to dry out. Ponderosa pine needles are rich in carbon, which is what makes them great for composting! To find out more about how to compost pine needles, keep reading below.
How Long Does it Take for Pine Needles to Decompose?
You have to be a patient gardener if you want to compost pine needles. It takes about two months of hot composting to make pine needle compost from old pine needles. The pine straw will stay intact the longest, but the greens will break down in the first few weeks.
You have to make sure to add a lot of greens to the compost pile, though, to offset all the carbon the pine needles contain. Otherwise, the pine needles will take even longer to compost.
Are Pine Needles Bad for a Garden?
If you add fresh pine needles to your garden soil without composting them first, they may lower the pH of your soil. However, older pine needles or composted pine needles are easy to use in your garden in various ways!
For example, you can use pine needles to line the rows of your garden. This will help prevent soil erosion and can even help decrease weed growth.
What Else Can You Do With Pine Needles?
You can use pine needles that have not been sprayed with pesticides or fungicides throughout your home. For example, you can make all-natural household cleaners with pine needles!
Just add about a third of a cup of pine needles to a jar and cover with white vinegar. Screw on the lid and shake. Then, leave the jar to sit for three weeks before straining out the pine needles. Then voila, you are ready to clean your house with homemade pine-sol!
You can also cook with pine needles! Have you ever heard of pine needle tea? Pine needle tea is easy to make and is a great immunity booster during cold and flu season.
Just add as little as a tablespoon or as much as a quarter cup of freshly picked pine needles to a small saucepan. The more pine needles you add, the stronger the pine flavor will be. Add a cup of water to the saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Cover, turn off the heat, and let steep for five minutes. Then strain out the pine needles and pour in your favorite mug.
You can enjoy your pine needle tea on its own or try adding some honey or lemon for extra flavor. Pine needles have so many uses, and they are easy to find almost anywhere. They’re great.
Can Pine Trees Compost?
You can compost pine needles in small amounts. Pine needles decompose very slowly, so they should only make up about ten percent of your compost pile. You should mix the pine needle with other organic matter such as grass clippings for the best composting results.
It is important to remember a pine needle has poor structure compared to a leaf and does not hold much moisture. Conifer needles fall under the brown category of materials you can add to your compost bin. Compost needs moisture, air, and a balance of brown and green materials to succeed.
If you are going to add pine needles to your compost, be sure to add many green materials. The nitrogen in the green materials will help offset the carbon-rich pine needles.
If you are composting pine needles, you should also be sure to break the branches down into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost bin. This will help them decompose faster. The best way to shred up pine needles for compost is by running over heaps of them with your lawnmower.
Do Pine Needles Make Good Mulch?
Pine needles make great organic mulch! They help your plants grow by preventing weed seed from growing. Pine needle mulch can even help protect the roots and condition the soil of the conifer trees they fall from.
Using a wood chipper is one of the fastest ways to shred pine needles and bark to make pine bark mulch. You can even shred up pine cones to make pine cone mulch and add oak leaves to the mix.
Unlike other kinds of mulch, pine straw mulch is lightweight and easy to spread around. So you won’t have to spend all day carrying around heavy bags of expensive wood chips!
To use pine mulch in place of wood mulch or rubber mulch, just make sure you leave a space of about three inches around the bottom of your plants. Then add a layer of pine mulch that is three to four inches thick around your plants. Pine needles do not get compacted as quickly as wood chips do, so your soil will still get appropriately aerated.
How Do You Compost Pine Needles Fast?
You can speed up the composting process if you use aged pine needles or pine needles previously used as mulch. Older dried pine needles compost faster than fresh ones.
As we mentioned, pine needles make a great addition to your compost pile because they do not get compacted. Pine needles help keep your compost pile aerated, which helps the compost break down faster.
Adding pine needles to your compost can give you a hotter compost pile than if you use other organic matter. Pine needles also compost faster if you soak them in water for at least 24 hours before adding them to your compost pile. It can also help speed up the composting process if you use hot composting techniques.
This means you should add hot greens which are high in nitrogen to your compost pile. Hot greens include materials such as coffee grounds, manure, blood meal, and grains.
Are Pine Needles OK for Compost?
It is a myth that composted pine needles cause acidic soil and may stunt plant growth, especially around evergreen trees. Green, fresh needles are acidic. However, needles that have fallen off a pine tree start to lose their acidity.
Tests even show that decomposed pine needles become neutral over time, so they will not affect your compost bin negatively. Soil acidity is also not the reason plants struggle to grow under conifer trees.
It is actually because evergreen trees have shallow roots that take all the available soil moisture and nutrients in the area. Plus, conifer trees provide a lot of shade, so other plants cannot always get the sunlight they need to grow.
Pine needles are great for compost though! They are rich in carbon, so they make great brown material for compost. Plus, their slightly acidic properties make pine needles a great addition to the soil of acid loving plants such as gardenias, raspberries, strawberries, and rhododendrons.
Now You Know About Composted Pine Needles
Despite what some people might say, composting pine needles can be great for your plants and garden. Yes, pine needles may take some extra time and energy to compost, but they are easy to find and great to add to your soil. Overall, composted pine needles are worth the extra effort. The renewed health of your plants and garden will prove it.