I’ll never forget the day my husband and I arrived in Lake Norman. One of the very first things I noticed were the pine needles. They were everywhere; arranged neatly under trees, around bushes and flowers. I was baffled. Now I have lived not only in California but Arizona, Colorado, Illinois and New Jersey and yet I can’t ever remember seeing pine needles in landscaping. Of course, all of the properties we looked at had pine needles in their gardens. Three days later we were flying back to California to list our own home because we were now the proud owners of a wonderful new home in Lake Norman with….pine needles.
It turns out that pine straw mulch as it is officially called, is a favorite material used by gardeners and builders in the South. It is sold in bales as in the picture above at everywhere from produce stands to gas stations to nurseries. There are two kinds: regular or “slash” and long leaf pine straw which is the cleaner, better quality mulch.
The problem with pine needles is that they simply don’t stay put, especially along the edges of sidewalks and driveways. Honestly, I think they are kind of messy. Hence, when it came time for us to landscape our front yard we decided to get rid of the pine and use hardwood mulch:
Hard wood mulch is quite a bit more costly than pine needles so it isn’t for everyone but I think it looks much nicer and it smells wonderful when it is new. We were told by Metrolina, who did our landscaping, that the hardwood mulch should be about 4 inches thick and will not need to be renewed for several years where as my neighbors seem to add new pine needles several times a year.
Here is what wood mulch looks like in a garden:
If you want to read more about the basic functions of mulches and the pros and cons of each kind, I highly recommend that you read Cornell University Department of Horticulture’s: Mulches for landscaping and Mississippi State University article on pine straw mulch. If you would like to join a heated debate on Pine Straw vs. Shredded bark: Online debate on pine needles versus shredded bark. One of the more serious arguments in favor of the pine straw is that the person’s dog tries to eat the bark. Hmmmm. Is that a bark problem or a pet problem?
Well, for all of you thinking about relocating to Lake Norman or you newcomers to the South, I hope this will put to rest all of those gnawing mulch questions that have kept you up at night!