Red pine needles as mulch?

We are planting a garden on the land that we just bought. The soil is a really sandy loam where we are putting the garden (it's a whole lot more sandy than loam on most of the rest of the property).
We need some heavy mulch to make this work.
We have five or six acres of planted red pine forest.
If we rake up a bunch of needles and use them to mulch the garden, will that cause any problems?
Ray
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Seeds will not germinate. Pine needles contain a chemical that prevents germination. The chemical breaks down in approximately one year. You will be all right as long as you plant established seedlings through the mulch. The one thing that you can not do is seed a bed, and then cover the seeds with a thin layer of composted needles - nothing will come up (trust me, I have done it). Potatoes will come up if they have already sprouted. I don't know about garlic or onions but I think they will sprout (I have lots of bulbs under a spruce and they are the only green stuff under there until grass comes up in august). the other thing you will need to do is mix some ash from the stove into those needles (they are acid). They are otherwise fairly "green" and they should give the soil some fertility.
I am in a very similar situation to yours - one of my gardens is sandy loam and the other is the Sahara. Heavy mulch, several inches of manure, and plant seedlings through the mulch is the way to go. Pine needles are a fine mulch in many respects (they don't mat, they are relatively fertile, they break down within the year), you just have to learn to use them. In three years, if the beds have received two applications of manure and maybe 8 total inches of organic matter, you should be able to ease up both with manure and with the needles (don't need to apply every season). You will also have to plan ahead if you plan to seed (most root vegetables and several greens are best direct seeded). If you do apply a heavy layer of needles, it will probably take two years for the beds to be ready for seeds. so maybe you use needles one year, cardboard or newspaper the next (this year my cardboard, applied in april, is already half gone), and then you seed.
One last advice: your soil is almost certainly acid and will be more acid still with needles. If you start seeing a pattern where garlic does better than onions, or potatoes do well but beets or chard don't, add much more wood ash or lime. Just to give you an idea, in a 30X4 bed, you have approximately 10 tons of dirt. If the pH is 5.4, it will take approximately 2 pounds of ash to take it to 6.4, but 20 pounds of ash are needed to take it to 6.65.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

is a

more
will
Thanks!
I think I'll dig out the pH tester and give it a whirl. Meanwhile, it looks like pine needles will be a great way to keep weeds from sprouting.
Now, I need to find a good source of manure. Getting the poop won't be as big a problem as getting it here. Of course, once the chickens get bigger, the used litter will certainly do wonders for the garden.
We love our new piece of land, but we have lots of work to do. I'm thinking of choosing a few areas and putting massive amounts of manure and mulch on them so we can use those plots in a couple years. If I can get a big enough truck or trailer, I'll try covering a large piece of ground with about a foot of mulch, covered by a foot of dairy doo.
Ray
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
(simy1) wrote:

My soil is so alkaline it makes a soil tester act broken (it's somewhere above 8.0), and you can see the difference under some of the pines in that what does grow there (tumbleweeds, mustard, native grass but not fescues) looks healthier than elsewhere. But as you say pine straw generally does inhibit seed germination -- makes it a good mulch for keeping down general weeds.
Oaks similarly inhibit seed germination, in fact the Calif. scrub oaks pretty well sterilize the soil underneath them, and it takes several years for the leaf mulch to break down enough that anything will sprout.
~REZ~
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
They work well with strawberries and blueberries, both of which require acidic soil. I don't know where you are, but if you can raise blueberries, I would. Strawberries will grow just about anywhere, as long as you buy plants for your area.
Dwayne

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

One thing to remember is that pine needles are very flammable, so make sure you keep them moist. I like using them as mulch, since they are nice and durable, but they do burn fast and hot if they dry out. You might want to keep them away from buildings, too, in case they do catch fire.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

is a

more
will
sure you

durable,
them away

That might be tough. The majority of my property is covered with the stuff -- and the trees that generate it.
Ray
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

They're not that big a problem, as long as you keep them moist(at least the bottom layers). I like to run them through a shredder and they make pretty good mulch. It seems to take a bit longer than a lot of other organic materials to break down, but the flip side of that is that it also helps protect the soil surface longer that way too.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

soil
lot
make
and
keep
least the

pretty good

materials to

the soil

I'm wondering if I'm going to have to set aside another plot for next year's garden. If the stuff is still leaching chemicals that suppress germination, I may have to let it sit for a couple years before planting seeds again. I might end up using the entire plot for things like tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, squash, and the like next year. There is some lovely ground in that area in front that looks like a flood plane (but isn't -- or it would be flooded right now). The orchard and chicken range is going there, but a little chicken wire would be sufficient for putting a garden there.
Ray
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

or chard or lettuce or beet or cabbage. I really only seed carrots, arugula, spinach, tatsoi and mache. I do seed some lettuce in midseason, but the early one is always from transplants. But what you should do is test your pine needles towards the end of the season. when the ground is still warm, plant a few seeds of what you plan to seed, and see how it goes. I gave the two years number based on my experience with light mulch (maybe one inch, partially composted needles from previous year, seeding attempted in june and july).
There

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

next
suppress
planting
News flash: I'm already committed, so I'm going to plant the garden where I had originally planned this year. Next year, I might put some ornimentals there, or maybe something that likes sand. Either that, or I'll put a hoop house there.
You see, my wife had bought a plum tree, so we took it down to the area that I had slated for pasture and orchard. It's a pain to get there because of the forest that's between the house and the low area.
Anyhow, I started digging the hole and came up with the nicest black dirt I have seen in this area. There were lots of earthworms, and the soil is quite moist (not surprising, considering all the rain we have been having).
So, I'm going to cut a path to the area, run some electric fence, and turn a large chunk of it into garden. The chickens can have that little clearing next to the pole barn, and the goats can have the clearing between the middle and back woods. :-)
Ray

and
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.