How to Use Pine Needles in Compost
If you have a large evergreen tree or two in your yard, or live with a wooded area on your property, and are tired of looking at all of the down pine needles just sitting on the ground there is a solution. Like many other natural things found around your backyard, you can use pine needles in compost. By composting what otherwise would be yard waste, your pine needles can be converted to a rich compost which can be used in the garden for soil improvement, increasing drainage, or added as mulch around plants.
Run over your raked pine needles with a lawn mower, shooting them out or gathering them in an empty collection bag. If your mower spreads the clippings, rake them together again and put them in a wheelbarrow. Take your wheelbarrow or collection bag to your composter and set aside.
Add a couple of inches of “green” matter to your compost such as grass clippings, kitchen waste from lettuce, spinach, and cabbage, or seedlings which have been thinned from your vegetable or flower garden.
Add your pine needles in a thin layer only one or two inches deep over your green material. Spread the needles out in an even layer so they aren’t piled up in the center of your compost mound.
Sprinkle a little bit of limestone over the pine needles just enough to coat them but not pile up on the needles. This can help reduce the initial burst of acidity to the compost as the needles begin to break down.
Cover over the pine needles with an inch or less of “brown” matter which includes dead leaves, twigs no larger than a half-inch in diameter or six inches long, and any old potting soil or garden dirt which is free of weeds or seeds.
Turn your compost pile once or twice a week for a few months to mix the needles in with the rest of the material as it breaks down. Be sure to pull material up from the bottom as you work to keep a packed down, solid layer of soil from forming at the base.
If you have one available, you can use a garden shredder to help really chop up the pine needles and increase the surface area for bacteria and fungi to feed on.
To keep your compost breaking down and therefore decreasing the acidity from your pine needles, be sure to add water anytime your material looks like it is getting dry. While you don’t want to soak the material, it should be kept damp at all times.
- If you have one available, you can use a garden shredder to help really chop up the pine needles and increase the surface area for bacteria and fungi to feed on.
- To keep your compost breaking down and therefore decreasing the acidity from your pine needles, be sure to add water anytime your material looks like it is getting dry. While you don't want to soak the material, it should be kept damp at all times.
- Raked pine needles
- Lawn mower
- Composter or compost pile
- "Green" matter (vegetables, thinned plants, grass clippings)
- "Brown" matter (dead leaves, twigs, used potting soil)
- Limestone powder
- Water, as needed
- "The Rodale Guide to Composting"; Jerry Minnich and Marjorie Hunt; 1979