Pine Straw as Mulch

By Lauri L. Newman - Post Date: 05.01.2012

When pondering possibilities for mulch this spring, you may want to consider pine straw. It offers lots of benefits and is relatively inexpensive.

The straw from each pine tree species will have its own unique characteristics, such as needle length, wax content, and needle flexibility to name a few. As a general rule, though, most pine straw is easy to apply and shape, and the needle size is the optimum for allowing the soil to breathe well while allowing excellent water infiltration.

Pine straw is slightly acidic, but only at the acidity level of normal rainwater (pH 5.5-6.0). Green Needle can be pH 4.5 but as it breaks down, in a short period of time it becomes less acidic. Freshly fallen leaves have the same pH as rainwater. The majority of all plants (ornamental, flowering, vegetables, etc.) require a slightly acidic soil for maximum nutrient uptake from the soil. Pine straw is right in that perfect range of acidity for maximum nutrient uptake.

Well all of that said, you should check your soil pH before applying pine straw as a mulch. If your soil is already acidic, adding the pine needles will make the soil more acidic.

Pine straw comes in bales with each bale weighing about 25 pounds. It's best spread by hand about 2-3 inches thick, which will cover roughly 60 square feet. Don’t place the needles right against plants and trees. Instead, leave 2-3 inches of space for evapotranspiration and reduced pathogen pathways.

Now, about those benefits. Here are several reasons why you should consider pine straw as a mulch:

It's naturally produced and sustainably harvested. It's long lasting and hard to erode. It holds uniform color longer and provides good contrast to plants and grass. It's lightweight and easy to spread. It inhibits weed seed germination. It's good for soil health and especially good for acid-loving plants. It doesn't attract termites or rodents yet is great for bird nests.

That's a lot of positives. So when getting ready to apply mulch in your yard or garden, at least consider the possibilities of pine straw.

Lauri L. Newman is the owner of FarmGirl Garden Designs & Cut Flowers, 49 Bryant Street, Asheville. For more information call 828.253.3340 or visit