How to Harvest Pine Straw

Overview

Pine straw is simply harvested pine needles, used for landscaping and garden mulch. Pine straw makes an excellent mulch, helping to maintain soil moisture content, reduce weed growth, and even out soil temperatures, thus protecting plant root systems from stress. Pine straw is available in plastic-wrapped bales from many garden supply stores, but you can harvest your own pine straw with a few simple tools if you have landowner permission and access to a long-needled pine stand.

Step 1

Locate a stand of long-needled pine trees. Obtain landowner permission to harvest pine straw from the stand.

Step 2

Cut down and remove understory brush from the pine stand using pruners and loppers, if desired, to make harvesting easier.

Step 3

Rake the top two inches of pine needles into piles about 3 feet high by 3 feet around, using a metal landscaping rake. Leave a layer of pine needles on the ground to protect and feed the pine trees; rake off only the dry, top layer of the needles, unless the landowner has indicated that the stand is soon to be cut and that removal of all needles to bare dirt is desirable.

Step 4

Toss piles of pine needles into sacks or large plastic tubs using a mulching pitchfork. Remove by hand any branches or pine cones that do not drop out during this process, wearing work gloves.

Step 5

Cover the sacks or tubs with a tarp if transporting in an open vehicle such as a pickup truck. Spread 4 to 6 inches deep at desired location, by hand (wearing gloves), or using a metal landscape rake.

Tips and Warnings

  • Pine straw, like other organic mulches, is flammable, and can also harbor small rodent pests in the winter. Keep pine straw back from the base of wooden structures, and do not place landscaping lights on the ground in contact with pine straw, to avoid fire hazard.

Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Metal landscape rake
  • Mulch pitch fork
  • Burlap or plastic sacks, or large plastic tubs
  • Tarp
  • Pruners
  • Loppers

References

  • Texas A&M University Extension: Pine Straw as a Ground Cover Mulch
  • Louisiana Cooperative Extension: Pine Straw Mulch in the Landscape
  • U. Florida Cooperative Extension Service: Pine Straw Management in Florida's Forests

Who Can Help

  • Mississippi State U. Natural Resource Enterprises: Pine Straw
Keywords: pine straw, pine mulch, pine needles

About this Author

Cindy Hill has practiced law since 1987 and maintained a career in freelance writing since 1978. Hill has won numerous fiction and poetry awards and has published widely in the field of law and politics. She is an adjunct instructor of ethics and communications.