As the name implies, pine straw comes from pine trees, which shed their needles throughout the year. Once the needles drop to the ground, they are hand-raked, cleaned and baled without the need to cut down or harm the trees. This makes pine straw a very environmentally friendly choice for a landscaping and mulching material.
When applied correctly, pine straw prevents evaporation of water from the soil, reduces the growth of weeds, and helps to prevent soil compaction and erosion. Pine straw also protects plants from freezing conditions, helping keep the soil around the plants at a stable temperature. This is important for newer plants and those with shallow root systems. Plus, pine straw will improve the soil structure as it decays.
Types of pine straw can vary by region, and coverage will depend on the type, bale size, and application depth.
Most professionals recommend an annual application of pine straw. However, if you're only using it for decorative purposes, you can apply it about twice a year to keep the landscape looking fresh.
You may want to wear a pair of gloves when applying pine straw. The needles can be very prickly and harder to manage with your bare hands. Application is quite simple. Remove the bale ties and simply take handfuls of the straw, shaking it over the application area. In general, plan to apply to a depth of about 3 inches, adding approximately an inch annually to maintain a good depth.
The main goal is to prevent weed growth and enhance the beauty of your yard with ground cover. Your application of pine straw needs to be at least 3 inches thick. You may find recommendations for application up to 6 inches thick, but that is usually not necessary, especially in shady locations such as areas beneath trees. This decorative approach is a nice technique to use for lining walkways and seating areas that aren't paved, such as the areas around benches.
Gardens, Trees and Shrubs
It's a good idea to extend the pine straw to the drip line of your plants. Keep the straw about 2 to 3 inches away from plant bases and the trunks of trees and shrubs. Pine straw applied in this way around trees will discourage rodents from feasting on the bark.
As pine needles break down, they slightly acidify the soil, making them an excellent landscaping mulch for acid-loving plants, trees and shrubs such as camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, fuchsias, gardenias, ferns, dogwoods, magnolias, holly and evergreens.
A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of soil. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, reducing weed growth and enhancing the visual appeal of the area.
A mulch is usually, but not exclusively, organic in nature. It may be permanent (e.g. plastic sheeting) or temporary (e.g. bark chips). It may be applied to bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms. The process is used both in commercial crop production and in gardening, and when applied correctly, can dramatically improve soil productivity.
Many materials are used as mulches, which are used to retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and for aesthetics. They are applied to the soil surface, around trees, paths, flower beds, to prevent soil erosion on slopes, and in production areas for flower and vegetable crops. Mulch layers are normally two inches or more deep when applied.
They are applied at various times of the year depending on the purpose. Towards the beginning of the growing season, mulches serve initially to warm the soil by helping it retain heat which is lost during the night. This allows early seeding and transplanting of certain crops, and encourages faster growth. As the season progresses, mulch stabilizes the soil temperature and moisture, and prevents the growing of weeds from seeds. In temperate climates, the effect of mulch is dependent upon the time of year they are applied and when applied in fall and winter, are used to delay the growth of perennial plants in the spring or prevent growth in winter during warm spells, which limits freeze thaw damage.
The effect of mulch upon soil moisture content is complex. Mulch forms a layer between the soil and the atmosphere preventing sunlight from reaching the soil surface, thus reducing evaporation. However, mulch can also prevent water from reaching the soil by absorbing or blocking water from light rains.
In order to maximise the benefits of mulch, while minimizing its negative influences, it is often applied in late spring/early summer when soil temperatures have risen sufficiently, but soil moisture content is still relatively high. However, permanent mulch is also widely used and valued for its simplicity, as popularized by author Ruth Stout, who said, "My way is simply to keep a thick mulch of any vegetable matter that rots on both sides of my vegetable and flower garden all year long. As it decays and enriches the soils, I add more."
Plastic mulch used in large-scale commercial production is laid down with a tractor-drawn or standalone layer of plastic mulch. This is usually part of a sophisticated mechanical process, where raised beds are formed, plastic is rolled out on top, and seedlings are transplanted through it. Drip irrigation is often required, with drip tape laid under the plastic, as plastic mulch is impermeable to water.