Pine needles as mulch for roses?

kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)March 8, 2010

I'm contemplating what would be a great mulch for under all of my beds this spring. I have a couple of beds with hosta's that I'd like to use pine needles with to deter slugs. I also have my rose beds and other perennial beds. What I'm wondering is... I'd like to keep the mulch type the same I think for all of my beds, but also add to the soil. Would pine needles work? Or do they take way too long to decompose and work their way into the soil? Does anyone else use pine needles under their roses?

Last season I used mini pine chips and they did work great, but they won't deter slugs at all. Although they do break down quickly and add to the soil.

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Pine needle mulch (aka pine straw) is the most common mulch material in my area. I like using it in my rose beds because it's so easy to move around when I need direct access to the soil around the plants. It breaks down fairly rapidly, altho there's variation among the types of pine straw. The most sought after, hardest to find these days, & most costly straw comes from long leaf pines. In most applications, straw is left in place & new straw is spread each year (or more often). I completely remove the straw from my rose beds at pruning time each year (early Feb), and apply fresh straw about six weeks later. I'm getting my 2010 delivery next week.

In recent years, the quality of pine straw here has really deteriorated so one has to be very particular about where it's purchased -- otherwise there's a risk of getting old straw, and/or bales containing lots of 'foreign' matter.

For the first time last year, PLASTIC straw became available. It's terribly expensive, looks great, and makes me shudder.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 6:19AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

I have been using pine needle mulch in all my garden beds for years. They don't sell it around here, but it is plentiful and free wherever anyone has a couple of white pine trees growing. Our neighbors have 2 and I rake their needles, plus we have another friend across town that rakes them and saves them for me. They are lightweight and easy to spread, and look good, esp. once they fade a bit and lose that orangish tint and turn brown.

However, they don't seem to add much to the soil. They are slow to break down, which is good in a way because you don't have to apply as often. I alternate mulching with shredded leaves, and the leaves really enrich the soil, it's as if having added compost after they break down. Or I will spread compost and/or leaves, then pine needles on top.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 6:34AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

I use the pine needles places I don't want things to grow, like paths and under the eave overhang. They literally take years to break down, and even then don't seem to do much. I used to use them around iris (back when I was still trying to grow TBs in normal garden beds) and the next time I redid the bed, it was easy to tell where that section was.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 6:58AM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

That's what I was afraid of mad_gallica. I remember in another post you mentioning how long they take to break down. They do look great I think, but I don't know if I will use them in all my beds now. I want something that will deter slugs and such but not take forever to break down. I did start a leaf compost bin this past fall, so when I can get enough of that good stuff then I will lay down some of that in fall time to enrich the soil. But, for now, I don't have enough of it! Darn!
Windeaux, there is a place that sells pinestraw. It's online at The Pine Straw Store, and I bought some last season for the hosta beds. It comes in many sizes(long needles and shorts) and looks great in the hosta beds. The company was really fast at shipping too.
I wish I could get them free here, but we have only oaks, maples, and pleny of "firs" that don't drop their needles. I would much rather just save the money and rake them up myself.
Well, maybe I'll just stick to the mini pine mulch for the rose beds then. I'm still thinking about it though.

Thanks all for your thoughts.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pine Straw Store

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 7:13AM
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I'm really envious of all of you for whom pine straw doesn't deteriorate rapidly. Must have something to do with with cooler temps and less solar intensity. If if didn't break down rapidly here in the sunny south, we'd all be neck-deep in the stuff.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 7:57AM
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I agree with windeaux....must be a regional thing. I apply the pine straw yearly to all azaleas, gardenias and hydrangeas because it is always gone. I haven't used it too much around roses but think it would be good there, too.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 9:15AM
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maureeninmd(z6 MD)

It breaks down very quickly here. I wish I had more of it. Also seems to have worked the best for winter-protecting roses as is stays very dry.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:09AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

kentstar, if I had to pay money for pine needle mulch, I probably wouldn't use it. Since it is free for me and abundant I do take advantage of it, but like I said, it doesn't really contribute anything to the soil and I have to add leaves and/or compost underneath the pine needles.

I do believe it's a myth that pine needles change the pH of the soil. I have been checking the pH in certain beds that I have been mulching with needles for almost 10 years (blueberry bushes) and the pH hasn't changed a bit.

Maybe we have different kinds of pines here than in the south. Ours are mostly white pines, there is another pine that shreds its needles that has coarser needles, grows closer to the shore, I don't know the name of.

Pine needles do make a good winter protection as they stay fairly dry like maureen said vs. leaves.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:44AM
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roseman(Z 8A GA)

Here in southeast Georgia, pine straw is just about all we use, because it's cheap and readily available. As it breaks down it makes the soil more friable. Oh, yes, and it's very decorative as well.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 12:28PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

Whenever you decide what type of mulch your going to use. Some say used coffee grounds repels slugs. Spread on your soil and cover with mulch.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 3:05PM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

Oh good Jim, I have lots of UCG's I've collected over winter just from drinking all my coffee. I didn't know those are supposed to repel slugs.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 9:09PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

Here's some other ideas on controlling slugs.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:26PM
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eaj09(8b Coastal VA)

I started using it because of several reasons: 1. started getting too $$ (cost and time) for hardwood shredded mulch each year 2. started hurting my back hauling & spreading the mulch for my rose beds that holds, cumulatively, over 150 bushes 3. I am surrounded by pine trees from my neighbors and was raking away the thick layer of pine straw every year for the expensive hardwood shredded mulch.

I think laziness and cheapness won over, primarily. My pine straw doesn't break down easily at all. I didn't realize other pine needles did depending on the region.

Good luck w/ yours.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 10:35PM
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It seems to me that I am the only one who doesn't like pine needless for mulch. I used it for years but I never liked it. I checked the price and it isn't cheaper than hard wood mulch. I like the darker color in the beds. It looks nicer and makes the bed neater - for my eyes, at least.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 3:03AM
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cjrosaphile(z8 Pacific NW)

Whoa! This is news to me. Always thought pine needles caused acidity. Usually not much grows under pine trees where I live. Had a friend who tried to plant climbing roses near some rather large pine trees and they all died. At Heirloom Gardens, the roses that are growing near the pine trees are sickly looking. There is enough sun, just assumed that the soil was too acidic. Live and learn. CJ

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 2:47AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

cj, it probably has more to do with the pine ROOTS than the NEEDLES.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 6:42AM
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I used to shovel tons and tons of bulk pine bark. Eventully the pine bark grew lots of weeds....or did it arrive with the seeds imbedded in it?.....

I now use pine needles. Until I can get my pine trees large enough to produce what I need, I have to buy the baled stuff. Fortunately, in my area, it is plentiful and inexpensive. Way cheaper than the bulk bark. The bark always made me ill too. I think they must spray it with something.

The pine needles are lightweight, break down somewhat quickly in my climate, and inhibit weeds as well as insects. My roses are happier, in fact they love it and are healthier. It dries out quicker, so it doesn't hold blackspot causing moisture around my roses, but holds moisture in the ground, where it is needed. It also has a nice woodsy look to it, and smells nice.

I will never go back to bark.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 9:56PM
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Pine straw normally breaks down quicker the more weather (sunlight and rain) it is exposed to. One of the advantages of pine straw as a mulch is the fact that it is slower to break down and provides its mulch properties longer than a lot of mulches. As to the acidity issue, I recently performed some testing and published my findings on the Pine Straw Info website. Cut and paste the following address into your browser to read the report.

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

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 7:19PM
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I appreciate the feedback on mulch here.. I like the idea of pine straw.. some touched on the subject of coffee grounds inhibiting slugs, I don't know about that BUT Roses LOVE coffee grounds... they flourish when fed after the growing season during the winter months one good application can give them enough strength to WOW you when the Blooming begins again. By the way MOST Starbucks GIVE away their used grounds for your garden.. its good for veggie garden soil and composting as well!! Just a lil tidbit Ive learned along the way.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 12:56AM
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