Help with leaves and pine straw

jnbundMarch 26, 2010

I've just recently moved into a house with a large area of pine straw covering (about 500 sqft) and have never really dealt with this kind of mulch before.

We have several large trees in the area and they have dropped an incredible amount of leaves on top of the pine straw. My initial inclination was to get out there and remove everything (leaves and straw) and replace with fresh straw. However, i've seen some of my neighbors simply cover the fall with fresh straw without removing anything.

I'm looking for suggestions on the best way to deal with the leaves and old straw. I come from NM and a world of xeriscaping where a couple bags of leaves is all i ever dealt with. If i were to pick up all of these leaves, plus straw, i would have 30 or 40 bags. What are my options?


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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

What is pine straw? Can you post a picture?
Could you blow this stuff around with a leaf blower? That is what I do with my leaves. I blow them into a pile or onto my flower beds as mulch.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 10:16AM
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Billl(z7 nc)

Personally, I would just run over the whole area with a mower to chop the leaves up and then top with some fresh pinestraw. Both will slowly decompose in place.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 3:37PM
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How much do you like working outside and getting dirty?
I have a lot of pine straw and leaves from my trees. This year I found that my garden beds were high in phosphate. One strong recomendation was to add mulched pine straw and leaves. I rented a mulcher (expensive) and mulched several 33 gal barrrels of the stuff. Worked great, but I needed more. I got leaves from my neighber and used my Toro weed trimmer to do the job. It worked! It took a little time and was a dusty job. I did not try to mulch pine straw. You need strong equipment to break that stuff up! I'd fill a 33 gal. plastic barrel 1/3 full of leaves and put the trimmer in the barrel.Then I transferred the mulched leaves into another container and dumped it in the flower bed. It does not look quite as "tidy" as when you buy the pine bark mulch, but I figured I saved at least $100.00 by not having to buy it. (my labor not figured in!)
If you do not have a lot of flower garden area, bag it up and see if someone would like to have it. We have some strawberry farmers in the area and they come by every week before trash day and pick up all the straw and leaves they can get.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 5:45PM
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Pine straw doesn't make good mulch. It grows fungus among other things. Pine straw rots slowly, stays around forever, and is generally very hard to mulch with a mower. If you leave it thick for mulch it will work but generally gets real nasty under there and is hard on the soil and plants. The only good solution is getting rid of the Pine trees. Other than that you have to compromise and have lower expectations for your yard. I lived 50 years under pine trees. I know what they are like. Eventually, if enough of the Pine trees remain, the score will be Pine trees "1" homeowner "0". In my old yard I had about 6 or 7 Pines. When they finally got mature they ruined all the grass underneath, dropped needles is the fall 8 inches thick mixed with Pine cones and rotten limbs. The top of one blew out and broke rafters in my roof. I had beautiful St. Augustine that it eventually completely ruined. Bugs and those huge roaches love to proliferate in pine straw too. Eventually I spent thousands to get them all cut down except for one last beautiful majestic tree that had been there all my life. Pine beetles got it a few years later and I had to pay to have it removed. Later I found put that three "impact" of one of the tree trunks they had "dropped" earlier had broken a sewer line 7 feet under my yard that had to be repaired. It took years for the yard to recover but I managed to get the St. Augustine back and the flower beds in better shape. I hate Pines.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 8:16AM
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frank1965(z8 NWLouisiana)

If pine straw doesn't make a good mulch then I guess all the gardening authorities are just wrong! Not to mention the millions of bales of PS sold each year. I don't what kind of soil you have but PS has loosened up my heavy soil since I have been using it for 20 yrs. Look around- you think pines are the only trees that fall in storms- hardly. You do a disservice to someone looking for help.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 9:48PM
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I agree with billl. The simplest and easiest would be to mow it well to chop everything up and then cover it with a thin fresh layer of pine straw to freshen up the color and uniformity. You could even skip the chopping part, but the leaves and older straw will decompose faster if it is chopped. If that doesn't matter, just cover it, it will still decompose over time. As far as rdaystrom's comments, it is normally the shade of the pine tree that kills the grass, unless the pine straw that falls is not raked. If it isn't, it will eventually smother the grass if allowed to get too deep. I have never seen roaches in my pine straw. There is some good general info on the website below regarding pine straw.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pine Straw Info website

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:51AM
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When ordered commercially PS is too expensive to simply grind and remove. The company suggested I use a leaf blower held at a very low and parallel angle to the top of the PS. Many of the finest golf courses use PS exclusively (including the world-class Broadmoor).

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 10:42AM
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I just bought a home where there are a ton of pine straw beds (front of house, hedge rows, tree bases, etc). Now that it's spring, weeds are bust up through the dingy old straw. What do you all suggest?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 7:21PM
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I have lived in relatively new homes in eastern Carolina since the mid 70's. One of the best ways to build up your flower beds is to use pine straw and leaves. They break down fairly quickly in the new flower beds leaving the clay with 20% quartz that you find in eastern Carolina resembling something like good earth for a flower bed.

We recently bought a house that was built about 3 years ago in a pine forest. I have been bringing pine straw and leaves into mulch the flower beds and trees. In the areas where the leaves and pine straw is the deep you get the consistency of of the material you buy at the nursery to grow plants.

In the hot summers of the south, the pine straw and leaves help to hold the moisture in the the flower beds.

While pine straw is not as easy as dry leaves you can move it with a leaf blower, if you keep the blower low so the air stream is more parallel to the ground.

ONE WORD OF WARNING. Where there is pine straw, leaves and an old woods there is poison ivy and other scratchy plants. I am currently hoping what is on may arm can be contained.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 9:48PM
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