It’s a Fine Time for Pine

Its a Fine Time for PineThis month I wanted to write about pine trees and needles. You might be thinking “what on earth is he going to say about boring old pine trees?” Besides creating clean oxygen, timber and mulch pine trees produce much, much more resources that we often neglect to think about. After reading my blog post you may never look at a pine tree stand (acreage with planted pine trees) the same way again…

Have you ever chewed a needle from a young pine tree? It tastes like lemon. Where I live people believe pine needles relieve their heartburn and some even say it satisfies thirst and hunger. I’ve heard pine needles can also prevent colds, flu and cure dry cough when chewed thoroughly and by swallowing the juice. I happen to love the scent of pine cleaners used to clean my home.

Those are just a few things about pine needle uses besides just using the dropped needles as pine straw to make my garden look great.  I did some further research to find the truth, and more uses of pine needles – below are some links to what I found.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for interest and information only. While most pine tree needles are safe for consumption we recommend that you conduct your own research and take caution before consumption of anything new. Additionally; there are three known pine trees and their needles to always avoid: Yew, Norfolk Island and Ponderosa pines are all poisonous to people. I also found a warning for women who are pregnant or could become pregnant are not advised to drink pine needle tea.

  • Green pine needles contain 5 times the amount of Vitamin C found in a lemon. – iSurvivalSkills.blogspot.com
  • Pine needles are a traditional medicine that was used in the treatment of about 80% of human diseases. LocalHarvest.org
  • Scandinavians used pine branches in saunas and many cultures stuffed mattresses with pine needles to repel lice, fleas and other insects. AwakeningBlog.com
  • According to AwakeningBlog.com pine needles exhibit strong antioxidant, antimutagenic and antiproliferative effects on cancer cells and antitumor effects in vivo and point to their potential usefulness in cancer prevention.
  • Some Indian tribes would peel young pine shoots and eat them as a vegetable while colonists would make a candy from the shoots. – iSurvivalSkills.blogspot.com
  • Pine needle tea and cambium (inner bark layer) helped cure scurvy and helped the early settlers survive the first winter in America.
  • Pine needle tea is high in both Vitamin A & C.  – DavesGarden.com and iSurvivalSkills.blogspot.com
  • Pine may help lethargy and exhaustion. – Therapeuticalteas.blogspot.com
  • Also according to Therapeuticalteas.blogspot.com pine needle tea is used for coughs and acute bronchitis. It is also a diuretic.
  • Pine needles are an anti-inflammatory; soaking in a pine needle bath may help gout, rheumatism, sprains and strains. Therapeuticalteas.blogspot.com and LocalHarvest.org
  • White pine needles are relief for: heart disease, heart ailments, varicose veins, muscle fatigue , sclerosis, kidney ailments, eye related ailments that concern connective muscles in the eye, gangrene and promotes strengthening of nerves in eye according to LocalHarvest.org

Those are just a few of my findings. This topic was so fun and interesting I may create a Part II.

 

Round Pine Straw Bales

Round Pine Straw BalesAfter this year’s freezing cold and crazy weather winter I am thinking of a nice fishing trip off the Grand Turks or some other warm exotic and tropical land.  Followed soon after by getting our yard and garden beds ready for Spring which officially begins March 20, 2014 and not soon enough for me. If you have already thought of how you will mulch for the spring but haven’t started yet you’re in luck! There’s something new and easy for garden beds and ground cover this year.

Custom Pine Straw is introducing round pine straw bales to their retailers this year that are available for purchase for the spring 2014 gardening season. Professional landscapers have tested round bales of pine straw and are asking for it with great demand for their customer’s everyday landscaping projects. Landscapers and groundskeepers are choosing round pine straw bales over square pine straw bales and other organic mulches.

“Round bales of straw can just be rolled out and fluffed right where you want it and in the thickness you want also. Whereas other mulches I have to place large amounts in different areas and spread it, or take more time to fluff and spread it. The round pine straw bales dramatically reduced the amount of time it takes to mulch the garden beds and around trees.” – Larry Thompson

Landscapers can save between 30 – 40% of their current labor costs by using round pine straw bales because it is much easier and faster to spread. Homeowners will be choosing round pine bales of straw not only because the ease of use but cost savings as well. One round bale of pine straw will cover 135 to 150 square feet. Custom Pine Straw round bales have 2.5 times the capacity compared to our square pine straw bales.

Round pine straw bales are more consistent in size and weight weighing approximately 36 to 38 pounds and have zero loss of product because it “rolls out” exactly where you want it without breaking apart and dropping needles. Round pine straw bales is also much cleaner pine straw having less leaves, twigs and debris than square bales.

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Spring Mulching 101

Spring is just around the corner and you’re probably beginning to think about what type of flowers you will be planting. Spring is a time where people like gardening because it’s a relaxing hobby and they like their yard to look aesthetically pleasing. Generally a flower garden is quite easy to care for. The most important aspect of gardening is keeping your flower beds mulched.

Normally the best time to mulch is right after winter while the soil is still moist. Mulching during the spring is still better than not mulching at all.

Choosing a Mulch

There are all sorts of mulches on the market today. Still, the best mulch is organic mulch as it provides more benefits to the soil as it slowly decomposes. Landscape professionals nationwide prefer to use pine straw. Pine straw is sold in cubic feet by the bale. Use our bale calculator to find out how much you need.

Before Applying a Mulch

Before you spread your mulch it is best to pull all of the weeds. You can even begin planting new plant seeds and bulbs.

Spreading the Mulch

Spreading mulch is very simple just spread it evenly and 3 inches deep. It is recommended to be 3 inches deep to stop weeds from getting any light to grow. The best way to apply pine straw mulch is by hand. Pine straw retains moisture so don’t cover the base of the plant and instead extend the straw to the drip line of the plant (at least 2 – 3 inches away from the base of plants, trees and shrubs). See more tips.

Mulch Maintenance

Since pine straw is organic and it will slowly decompose over time, periodically check and make sure to add new straw in areas where the needles have decomposed. Also rake the mulch from time to time to make sure that it hasn’t compacted down to much so that rain and water can still get to the soil.

Outdoor Landscaping with Pine Straw

Outdoor landscaping with pine strawPine straw can be used virtually anywhere in your landscape whether it’s at your residential home or office. Landscapers and garden professionals are choosing pine straw as their preferred choice of landscaping mulch due to its resilience, versatility and benefits to plants in the landscape.

Residential Uses for Pine Straw:

Homeowners throughout the United States use pinestraw to line their driveway and pathways. This technique will keep dust down and has a beautiful appeal while driving to your home.

Homeowners use pine straw in their garden and flower beds for several reasons. It provides attractive accenting while providing valuable nutrients back into your landscape. Also use pine straw around the base of your trees. Using pine straw in your garden beds prevents erosion and soil compaction, deters weeds and much more.

Pine straw is the best mulch for vegetable and fruit gardens. For example, pine straw allows the fruit of strawberry plants to rest above the soil and allows plenty of air and water to reach the soil. The pine straw doesn’t compact when it’s left alone unlike most other mulches. Strawberry runners are able to create new sister plants because they can make their way through the needles to create new roots.

Commercial Uses for Pine Straw:

Highway landscapers use pinestraw to cover newly laid grass, shrubs and trees for several reasons. When they water newly planted shrubs and grass, the pine straw protects against soil compaction and prevents erosion. You will often see pine straw lining the sides of highways for the same reasons.

Golf course greens keepers use pine straw throughout their golf courses due to its longevity. They will also use pine straw as pathways and on steep banks.

Pine straw is used in flower beds near office buildings to protect plants from soil-borne diseases by keeping mud splatters off that are caused by rain and watering.

In parking lots pine straw is used at the base of trees and shrubs to insulate the soil and make the soil a steady temperature. Pinestraw is also used in parking lots because it allows moisture to reach plants roots while deterring weeds which means a more attractive parking lot and landscape while requiring less maintenance.

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Florida Winter Landscaping Tips

Florida Winter Landscaping TipsDid you know Florida gets freezing temperatures? You might be thinking Florida never gets cold however, Florida has moderate winter temperatures and freezes can occur from Florida City Florida to the panhandle and everywhere in between. Vegetable farmers in Homestead Florida can tell you all about long nights irrigating fields to protect crops from freezing in overnight temperatures. Protecting your winter garden plants in Florida is equally necessary because all it takes is one night of temperatures in the low 30’s to 40’s for your most loved plants and shrubs to receive damage.

Below we list some tips on protecting your plants from some of Florida’s cold weather.

Proper Care for Winter Plant Protection

Mulch with pine straw around the base of plants, shrubs and trees to protect shallow root systems. Pine straw will insulate the plant absorbing the sun’s radiation using it at night to keep your plants, flowers and trees warm, just like a blanket uses our body heat to keep us warm at night.

Tip: Mulch around plants, trees and shrubs before a frost and after all of the leaves of trees nearby have fallen, your pine straw will look better longer as leaf free mulch!

Plants, trees and shrubs properly fertilized in the fall will recover quicker from frost damage. Dont wait until late fall to fertilize or prune otherwise the cold weather can cause damage to new growth.

Continue to water newly planted plants, trees and shrubs since it doesn’t rain often in Florida during the winter. Most of the above ground plant is dormant however the roots can continue to grow if adequate moisture is present.

Covering Plants and Shrubs

Cover tender plants by using cloth, such as old sheets or quilts, burlap or special covering from local nurseries that is made for plants and always avoid using plastic. Plastic will cause condensation to form on the leaves from freezing temperatures which results in the leaves burning in the sunlight. Covers that go all the way to the ground work best because it can lessen the damage by reducing heat loss.

 

Decorative Landscaping for Halloween Using Pine Straw

Decorative Landscaping  for Halloween Using Pine StrawDoes your family all-out decorate your yard for Halloween? Want a great tip for your decorations that you can re-purpose and reuse after Halloween? If you answered yes, you’ve came to the right place for tips on decorative landscaping for Halloween using pine straw! Even if you don’t go all-out for Halloween and would like to just have one or two yard or porch centerpieces we can give you advice with that too!

Outdoor Halloween decorations certainly add to the Halloween atmosphere no matter where you are located in the United States. Adults and kids of all ages enjoy decorating for Halloween and like seeing all of the decorated yards especially while Trick-or-Treating.

Just the thought of using bales of pine straw in your holiday landscape décor’ will make your house the best dressed Halloween house on the block.  What else is more fall landscaping than pine straw? Spread it across the landscape for an auburn colored bed for other decorations or stack whole pine straw bales to act as a pedestal for the rest of your Halloween decorations such as your pumpkins, gourds, scarecrows and other decorations.

Halloween decorating ideas to place on pine straw bales:

  • Mums (flower pot) due to their Halloween and fall colors
  • Carved or un-carved pumpkins; place lights inside of the carved pumpkin as a safe alternative to using a candle.
  • Basket of dried cornstalks
  • Dead flowers with a pile of dirt because they can act as a graveyard for Halloween decorations
  • Party stores and Halloween stores carry other items to intensify the “scariness” of your yard.
  • Place “spider webs” (purchased from most retailers in the Halloween section) on the straw bales, pumpkins, flower pots, tree limbs, etc.

Other decorative ideas for Halloween using pine straw are as follows:

  • Pine straw/needles make a great scarecrow. After the scare crow is made, place it in front, behind or to the side of the pine straw bales. You can even make the scarecrow sitting or lying down on the straw bales.
  • Make ghosts to hang from trees and limbs. Stuff an 8” ball of pine straw in the top of a white kitchen trash bag and tie it off with string, a zip tie, bread tie or something similar. Let the kids draw a face on the “ball” part for the ghosts head. After Halloween is over cut the tie off and re-use the trash bags. The pine straw can be used for mulching.

After Halloween

After Halloween, cut the ties on the pine straw bales that were used as pedestals and apply it as landscaping mulch, approximately 3” thick (see Pine Straw Tips & Uses). This will provide your landscape with the blanket it needs to protect your plants, trees and shrubs from the cold winter months ahead. See our October 16th blog post on “Steps to Prepare Your Fall Landscape for Winter” for other fall landscaping tips.

 

Steps to Prepare Your Fall Landscape for Winter

Preparing Your Lawn For WinterMany people believe preparing their gardens and landscape for winter is pretty easy however that is not the case if you want those bright, eye-catching flowers to be at their healthiest when they first appear next spring. Now, during the fall (also read our blog “2013 Fall Mulching with Pine Straw”) is the best time to prepare your landscape for the cold winter months ahead.

 

Here’s a few tips to prepare your garden and landscape for winter:

1. Give back the nutrients to the lawn that it needs through fertilizing.

“Right now, it’s key to work on your lawn,” says Jim Welshans, regional turfgrass educator at Penn State University. Many people believe spring is the most critical time to fertilize their lawn when in actuality it is fall for many parts of the country. Welshans explains: “In Pennsylvania we grow cool-season grasses and during the summer they’re not very active.” Come autumn, however, they revive.

Cool weather grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and others should be fertilized twice during the fall. The first application should have been in mid to late September (when fall began) using a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. The second application should use a fertilizer high in phosphorus, roughly in late November around Thanksgiving before the ground is frozen. This second application will prepare your lawn and plants for next year.

Warm weather grasses such as Bermuda, Zoyia, St. Augustine, centipede and others go mostly dormant in the winter however it is still recommended to fertilize your lawn from mid-September to mid-October to restore vital nutrients needed to produce healthy roots and sustain it over the winter.

2. Reseed and plant new grass seed now so it will germinate before winter.

3. Continue watering your garden beds and landscape throughout fall into early winter.

The ground should be moist before winter however not soaked otherwise mold can develop within your garden beds and landscape. TIP: to reduce the amount of watering needed throughout all seasons of the year use natural mulch such as pine straw, which not only protects your plants, retains moisture, adds nutrients to the soil – it also breathes and does not encourage mold growth.

4. Do not prune from now until spring.

Plants, trees and grass are now preparing to go dormant for the winter so you do not want to encourage growth through pruning. Once dormant however pruning of trees is encouraged.

5. Transplant and cleaning flower beds in the Fall.

Fall is a great time to transplant trees and shrubs especially in the South because tree roots have a longer period of time to establish. Remove perennials from your garden bed during the Fall so that when heavy rainfall occurs in the beginning of spring there is not a lot of root rot.

6. Most importantly is applying ground cover such as pine straw.

Adding ground cover such as pine straw to your plants and garden beds allows them to be protected against erosion from rain and snow, keeps the weeds down and most importantly acts as a blanket and keeps your plants warm during winter. Mulching Tip: pull mulch away from tree trunks by at least one inch to deter rodents from making the ground cover their home during winter.

Move tender plants that are in hanging baskets indoors or where temperatures will stay above freezing.

7. Continue mowing until late Fall when your lawn stops growing.

It’s Prime Time for Planting:

Plants: Hydrangeas, fall flower bulbs such as Gladiolus, Daffodil bulbs and Tiger Lilly bulbs.

Fruit and Herbs: blueberries, garlic, basil, chives, oregano, parsley and thyme.

Natural Garden Mulch

Natural garden mulch is a protective layer of organic material placed on top of the soil. The use of mulch use varies from highlighting garden paths to keeping weeds down as well as assisting in overall plant growth and health. There are many different types of natural garden mulches and you should select the proper type of mulch based on your needs.

Many types of mulch are organic such as wood chips, pine straw and grass clippings however some mulch like polythene and gravel are not actually organic. Even though the last two are not natural they can still be used in an organic garden alongside natural mulch. The big advantage of organic mulch such as pine straw placed over artificial fabrics is that the natural organic mulch will improve the soil and provide much needed nutrients to the plants.

Fall is the main time of year to complete mulching in your landscape. Natural mulch helps to retain heat in the soil over the winter month which gives the soil a higher starting temperature in the new season. It also protects delicate plants and will allow them to survive the effects of winter rains and erosion.

In spring the natural garden mulch can be removed from your landscape and garden beds before planting/propagating which allows the sunlight to warm the soil, naturally. Once the new plants are well established new garden mulch can be applied to conserve soil moisture through the dry summer months. This helps to reduce watering costs and improves plant health.

An important reason for adding a layer of natural garden mulch such as pine straw is simple; to keep the soil covered and protect where there aren’t any plants growing, especially when the surface is open. Ground cover also looks far more attractive than bare ground between plants. Long-lasting areas of pine straw or gravel can also be established around traditional features such as water fountains or birdbaths, shrubs and pathways.

Some of the more ideal places to use pine straw mulch are under the following plants: heathers, azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and around blueberry bushes. Such plants love pine straw since it contributes to the soil by putting valuable nutrients back into the soil which will in turn directly benefit the plants. See what other types of plants grow best in pine straw: Plants that Love Pine Straw and Plants that Benefit from Pine Mulch

Pine straw mulch provides a well-drained and moist, springy layer of protection that is the best organic mulch for enhancing the beauty of your landscape while giving back to the plants!

Get a pine straw quote today and see where we deliver!

2013 Fall Mulching with Pine Straw

Fall is just around the corner, with the official first day of Fall beginning on September 22 (2013).

2013 fall landscaping with pine straw Fall mulching has benefits beyond the garden such as keeping my shoes clean while I’m walking around my North Florida yard on all these days it has rained daily –some days upwards of 3 inches of water. I’m certainly not going to whine about it because we really needed all of this rain; before when there was no rain the drought was really starting to take its toll on some North Central Florida lawns that I saw while driving around.

Mulching with pine straw especially in the Fall will help with water retention, stopping weed growth and protects your plants and shrubs from such weather extremities such as temperature, wind, rain, lack of rain, sleet, hail and snow. When you’re adding new plants to your landscape this fall remember that the seedlings can grow through pine straw. Are you wondering “how will pine straw protect my plants against extremities and still let shoots come through?”

Pine straw is lightweight and airy allowing seedlings to grow through the needles while allowing water to trickle through the straw like a maze so the plant grows while allowing the soil to breathe all while the pine straw retains moisture itself. Sounds pretty amazing! That’s why pine straw is the perfect natural mulch from nature itself.

Pine straw as a mulch or ground cover can reduce weed growth by almost 2/3 when compared to not using any mulch. The trick here is to eliminate the sunlight that weeds need in order to develop by applying a 2 – 3” layer thick of pine straw.

I’m also going to share a little eco-secret on how to remove weeds using the following organic weed removal method: gather all of your old cardboard boxes and flatten them out. Remove all of the tape, plastic, shipping packages, staples and apply a layer of cardboard to an area in your garden you want to remove weeds. Remember you can also cut the cardboard pieces to fit around a curvy section in your garden. Then apply a 2 – 3” layer of pine straw on top of the cardboard. If you have plants where you are applying the cardboard, cut a hole in the cardboard where the plant stem will be (about a half inch away from it the stem) so that the plant can still get the water it needs. As the cardboard ages it will disintegrate into the ground and leave the layer of pine straw on the top leaving your garden weed free while allowing adequate growing conditions for your plants.

When you mulch in the fall you are preparing your plants for winter. Pine straw acts like a blanket; in the winter it keeps plants warm and in the summer it keeps plants cool. Mulching in the fall with pine straw will protect your newly planted plants against drastic temperature drops as winter nears.

It is excellent to mulch the following plants in August: Azaleas, Rhododendrons, roses, bulbs such as gladiolas and annual plants.

Also see: “Pine Time for Fall!

The Many Uses of Pine Straw

The Many Uses of Pine StrawOne of the best uses for pine straw is to use it as a good groundcover to keep areas safe and secure during the winter months. It’s especially great for larger lawns considering how lightweight pine straw can be, and this can save you time and your back! However, you can also use pine straw as an organic mulch material. This may work well if you are trying to keep your garden or landscaping safe over the colder months.

Also, you can use pine straw in spots where you need to keep water in. Pine straw is known for reducing water runoff or evaporative loss in all sorts of spaces. You can use pine straw to keep water near the root systems of your landscaping making sure that you are not wasting more water than is needed. I’ve been using pine straw in many spots around my landscaping primarily to keep myself from breaking the local watering restrictions that my neighborhood has been dealing with for the last few years.

You could also use this to protect new plants in your garden or landscaped areas. Pine straw is often used to cover areas so they are protected from weeds. The needles lock together and form an impenetrable barrier saving you the hassle of weeding, and keeping your landscaping looking great, with little effort. Weeds can also be responsible for killing your plants but pine straw helps to preserve the nutrients and water so that your plants can continue to be healthy. In fact, you can use pine straw over these new plants without risking any additional weight being added to the plants. I particularly like this benefit because it can be a challenge to tell the difference between a weed and a new plant when they are beginning to grow.

You could even attract birds to your home if you use pine straw in the right ways. A good idea is to set up some spaces around you landscaped areas that can form small circular spots. This could be used to create nice nest environments that birds can fly into. Having birds around your home is not only a nice way to connect with nature, but can also provide health benefits. Birds can eat many types of insects that can transmit diseases like West Nile Virus, to humans. Plus there is nothing better than waking up to birds chirping in the morning!