Commonly used as mulch material in the southeastern United States, pine straw is inexpensive, natural and lightweight. Mulching provides plant roots with cold protection, helps prevent water runoff and erosion, boosts soil moisture and cuts down on the need to weed by depriving potential weeds of sunlight and air. Pine straw improves the soil, breaking down into organic matter that boosts the nutrient content of your garden bed. The thin needles may not seem durable, but they lock together during rains and stay in place.
Measure the garden bed's length and width, then multiply these together to get the square footage so you know how much pine straw you need to use. It's commonly sold in bales. Texas A&M notes that a 40 lb. bale of pine straw can cover 100 square feet up to 2 inches.
Weed the garden bed before you apply the pine straw. You don't want weeds growing underneath the mulch. Discard all weed seedlings. Once you've removed all weeds, you can apply the pine straw.
Cover the garden bed with 3 inches of pine straw, tucking the pine straw around the plants' roots and stems. Break up any clumps with your fingers. Over time, the 3 inches will settle to a 1-1/2 inch layer of pine straw mulch. Do this in late spring. Mulching too early in the spring delays warming of the soil.
Water the garden bed directly over the mulch. Apply fertilizer over the pine straw mulch.
Reapply pine straw mulch annually to combat mulch that has blown away or decomposed. Apply 3 inches in the same manner as your initial application.