Grit Blogs > Life on a Southern Farm

Pine Straw Mulch and Making Pine Straw Bales

Here in the southeastern states, the pine trees are abundant – which means so is pine straw.

Pine straw comes from several different species of pine trees. The pine trees drop their needles naturally throughout the year. Once the straw drops to the ground, it can be baled, used for mulch and many other uses, without ever having to cut down a single tree.

Pile of pine straw in Georgia. They can provide mulch, bedding for biddies, or nesting straw, among other things.

The pine trees also produce pine cones.

Large pine cones on the picnic table.

Baling and selling pine straw is a large industry here in Georgia. (Bale modeled by Lionel the cat)

Bale of pine straw modeled by Lionel the Cat.

The Loblolly Pine tree is one of several native pine trees and is the most important commercial timber tree in the southeastern United States.  There are also Long Needle, Short Needle, Slash, Spruce and I am sure other varieties of Southern Yellow Pine trees growing everywhere in rural and not so rural areas of Georgia.

We planted about 15 acres of Loblolly pine trees 14 years ago. The trees are now bearing and shedding enough pine needles to use for mulch around the farm. We use the mulch in the raised beds and garden.

Pine straw used as mulch.

The pine straw doesn't float and wash away. It breaks down more slowly so it doesn't need to be reapplied as frequently as other mulches. The pine straw mulch also helps hold in moisture in our long, hot, and usually dry summers here in Georgia.

Lettuce growing in Georgia.

We pile the pine straw heavy around the tomato plants.

Delicious looking tomatoes grow on pine straw mulch.

It makes great mulch for my flowers.

Pine straw mulch is also good on the flowers.

We use pine straw in the nest boxes.

Pine straw in the nesting boxes for our laying hens.

Pine straw is great in the brooder. We found it better than wood shavings because the biddies (baby chicks) can't eat the pine straw.

Pine straw is excellent in the brooder.

We use this pine straw baler my husband made to bale pine straw.

Homemade pine straw baler.

How to make a bale of pine straw.

Step 1 in making a bale of pine straw.

Step 2, mashing the straw.

Step 3, adding more pine straw and mashing.

Step 4, tying the baling string.

Finished bale in the baler.

Stack of pine straw bales.

Looking down the row of pine trees.

We store the bales in the barn loft.

Storing pine straw bales in the loft.

Where the bales of pine straw sometimes serve another very important purpose. A nest to hatch more barn banties.

More barn banties in the loft.

Awww, chicks and their momma.

What do you use for mulch? Do you have other uses for pine straw?

3/24/2010 2:57:29 PM

Pine-needle Snowboarding! Cindy, I haven't thought of that use. LOL.. Since we don't receive much snow in middle Georgia that may be a big hit here. I didn't realize pine straw from Georgia was being used as far north as Michigan. My husband and son raked and sold pine straw locally years ago and they had a hard time keeping enough baled up. Thank-you Cindy for the comment.

cindy murphy
3/24/2010 12:35:49 PM

Hi, Pam. Wanna hear something ridiculous? I know that pine straw is a big business in Georgia - I know that because here in Michigan, baled pine straw comes from Georgia. The cost is astronomical in comparison with local products we have in abundance here because of the shipping costs involved, (not to mention the effect that shipping has on the environment). Cost isn't the only ridiculous factor. Michigan is teeming with native pines - red, jack, and for goodness sake, our state tree, the white pine which has needles so soft you can't help but want to run your hands along the boughs. Because the needle drop is natural, and doesn't harm the tree, you'd think people around here who want pine straw would just use what's close at hand. I fill up the pick-up with white pine needles fallen at the nursery to use as mulch - it's also excellent erosion control on sloped gardens. Before they make it into the gardens though, the girls spread a thick layer down the ravine hill to use as a sled and snowboarding run - they're extremely slick. Pine-needle Snowboarding in October at our house has become a neighborhood event! I love what you wrote in response to Mountain Women's comment, "I think it is important to use what you have and make the most of it. There are so many natural resources we all take advantage of and use only what we need." Here it's white pine, and hardwood mulch. Thanks for a great blog. Cindy

3/24/2010 7:35:20 AM

Thank-you Mountain Woman. I think it is important to use what you have and make the most of it. There are so many natural resources we all take advantage of and use only what we need. I enjoy reading about your and Mountain man's farm also. You have some beautiful pictures of it. Have a great day. Pam

mountain woman
3/24/2010 7:11:28 AM

Hi Pam, What beautiful photos. We have an abundance of pine here but instead we use the shavings Mountain Man produces from the planer. Some of the finest shavings in Vermont :-) and much in demand by barn owners. When we were in the Ozarks, we found no pine trees, just cedars and so we are continuing our search for property with pines. Mountain Man and pines go together. You and Farm Man are so creative and work so hard. It's just wonderful to read all about the two of you and your most beautiful Southern farm.

3/23/2010 7:04:00 PM

Hi Dave, I was surprised that much of the U.S.A. didn't have pine trees like we do here in Georgia. They are everywhere here! Your grass and leaves compost sounds good. We use a lot of leaves in our compost. Our spring down this way seems to be taking it's sweet time and we are ready to see it back here too. Thanks for the comment. Have a great day. Pam

nebraska dave
3/23/2010 5:39:20 PM

Pam, I do have a cedar tree in my front yard, but never thought to harvest the fallen needles to use for mulch. I usually have plenty of grass clippings and in the fall maple, mulberry, and elm leave drop. I like to crunch up the leaves by sucking them up with the lawn mower and dumping them on my raised garden beds. They begin composting down over the Winter months. In the Spring I cover the composting leaves and grass with a couple inches of good top soil and plant the garden. At least that’s my plan. So far I have the rotted leaves and grass that’s waiting for the top soil to be dumped and spread over the compost. I guess we will see how this works. Here in Nebraska we don’t have a lot of pine trees so I have never seen a pine straw bale. The straw here usually comes from the oats, barley, or wheat. That’s a mighty fine place you got there. I love your pine tree woods area. I’m a big fan of old barns. Yours looks to be a great one to explore. The weather is finally breaking here in Nebraska. I spent the day out cleaning up the front yard from the hard Winter. Many sticks, rocks, and left over leave mold were raked off the lawn and the neighbor was kind enough to give the grass it’s first dose of fertilizer. I better sharpen up old Chomper’s (lawn mower) blade and get ready to mow cause I think Spring is here.