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!

2014 Fall Mulching with Pine Straw

Fall is just around the corner, with the official first day of Fall beginning on September 22 (2014).

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!

How Much Pine Straw Do I Need?

Are you trying to figure out how much pine straw you will need to cover your garden for winter? Well it is actually quite simple. First we need to calculate the square footage of your garden.  The easiest way to calculate square footage is to measure one dimension, we’ll use my humble garden as an example, it is fifteen feet across. Next we multiply it by the adjacent dimension, in this case mine is a fifteen foot square so it is pretty easy. It comes to 225 square feet.  Here it is in numbers: 15’ X 15’=225 ft2. If you are using your pine straw for landscaping, you may want to subtract a little to compensate for the space taken up by shrubs or other plants-but I feel that it is always a good idea to have more than less!

Now, we need to decide what the depth of the pine straw we want for the coverage we are looking for. Most experts recommend a depth of about 2-2.5 inches of pine straw, spread evenly over the entire calculated area. I have tried this in years past; I have never been one to do things halfway and I felt that this was just not enough. Call it gardeners’ intuition, but anyway I like to use at least 3 inches now. I say at least because I live at a higher altitude and I like a little extra coverage.

So we now have a total calculated area of 225 ft2 at 3” deep. We now know we need 56.25 cubic feet. I got that number by multiplying our area, 225 ft2, by 3 inches, or 0.25 of one foot. Here it is in numbers: 15’ X 15’ X 0.25’ = 56.25 ft3.  Whew! Are you still with me? Good, now the hard part is over! And it is time to get down to the fun; playing in the garden.

I like to begin mulching my garden for winter sometime in mid-fall. This can be a little tricky as the weather can change quickly. I try to get the most out of my garden so I will even lay down some pine straw while things are still growing. The pine straw mulch really helps to retain the water at the roots and keeps it from evaporating on those blustery days. Most importantly, it keeps them nice and warm on the colder nights.

There you have it; a quick and simple way to calculate out how much pine straw you will need to cover your garden and get it ready for winter.

As we say here: “Keep your thumbs green, your knees brown, and bloom wherever you are planted.”

Organic Gardening with Natural Mulch

Organic Gardening with Natural MulchEach year, huge amounts of chemicals are sprayed onto gardens, negatively affecting the environment. Thousands of gallons of fresh water are contaminated just by homeowners who want to grow plants. Of course most of this chemical damage is done by the big agriculture food producers, but an alarming part of the damage is still done by homeowners wanting to rid themselves of weeds and pests.

This can be reversed; you can make a difference by changing how you handle weeds and pests in your garden. In fact many large agricultural producers have made the change to natural methods, and you can use the same techniques. We will go over three of the best ways; using natural mulch, choosing the right plants, using the plants to actually repel pests, and rotating your garden.

Choose Natural Mulch

There are actually some very quick and simple methods for safely getting rid of pesky weeds without using chemical sprays.  Natural mulch like pine straw, controls weed growth by smothering seedlings and prevents daylight from filtering through to the weed seeds, and the pine mulch also prevents unwanted air-borne seeds from germinating in your garden beds. Pine mulch in bulk is often used by commercial and agriculture business to regulate soil temperature and enrich the soil as it breaks down and releases nutrients back into the soil.

Pick the Right Plant Types

Not all plants may be appropriate for the area you live in. If you choose the right plants for your area, you may be able to avoid using chemical fertilizers. You can easily research what plants are native to your surrounding area by calling or stopping by a garden center or nursery and asking local experts who make their living selling plants in your area. It is harder to grow a cactus in Alaska than in Arizona… ;)

Rotate Your Garden Crops

Most farmers use a technique called “crop rotation” to create rich soil that naturally fertilizes crops. It is simple and works by simply changing what type of crop you plant in your garden each year. This works because various plants use specific nutrients and contribute certain nutrients which in turn means that you will only need to fertilize the soil now and then. This especially applies to your vegetable garden, try rotating where you place certain types of plants in your garden each year.

Choose Pest Repelling Plants

There really is no need to rely on poisonous chemicals to keep pests out of your garden. There are actually certain plants that produce natural chemicals that repel pests. We discussed one earlier that does so and can be used as natural mulch that deters weeds too, pine needle mulch, but be sure to get yours from a company that cleans the straw before use in the garden. Other plants that repel pests include Mint, Wormwood, Catnip, Lavender, and Sage. As a bonus you can actually use parts of these plants to make natural products to keep pests away from you. Research some of these amazing plants to find out what grows well in your zone, and what types of pest repellant plants will fit your needs.

Pine Time for Fall!

Fall Mulching with Pine StrawIt’s a “pine” time for mulching! Well, as we are all finding out the days are getting shorter and with that the nights a little colder. We are snuggling a little closer and getting ready for the long winter ahead. But, before you get too cozy don’t forget about your friends in the garden. That’s right the ones you have been tending to all summer long. They may be looking a little worse for wear right now but they are just like us, they want to hunker down and relax. One of the best methods to prepare my garden for winter is mulching. There are many different mulch products available but the one I have found the most effective over my many of years playing in the soil is pine straw. “Pine Straw?” you say. Yes, it is the needles that have fallen from pine trees.  It is all natural so your soil doesn’t absorb anything that shouldn’t already be there. It acts like a down blanket, interlocking together to insulate and protect.

When the weather begins to get colder and the days shorter, plants undergo many changes. We all love the fall colors and that is simply the plants reaction to there being less light in the day. Reds, yellows, and browns, all capture different parts of the spectrum of light during these seasonal changes. It is much like the bear going on an eating spree before hibernating. Nutrients begin to get stored in the root systems of the plants and this is where mulching becomes important. It acts as a barrier from the impending frost and allows for the growth of a healthy root structure. In the fall especially, your garden needs this extra attention as the weather can change suddenly and be pretty unpredictable. The pine straw still allows water to reach the roots and keeps it from freezing prolonging the life of your garden. Though I don’t know many people that are harvesting outdoors in January!

Now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant when dealing with the environment.  Pine straw is environmentally safe and comes to us naturally. There is no destruction of habitat or deforestation. It doesn’t require manufacturing or processing that is eating away at our natural resources. I know for me, my green thumb extends all the way down my arm, so I was really excited when I started using pine straw for my winter garden prep.

Well, I need to be getting back to my chores now. But I wanted to leave you with this: Keep your thumbs green and your knees brown and don’t forget to bloom wherever you have been planted!

Fall Landscaping with Pine Straw

Fall Landscaping with Pine StrawThe season is changing and we are approaching fall which is a great time to prepare your garden, lawn and plants for winter and spring. Fall landscaping and fertilizing will allow your landscape to recuperate during the autumn and fall seasons to prepare for the tough spring and summer months ahead. During the winter plants enter sort of a dormant state, so it is imperative to plant new shrubs during the fall to allow them to adjust to soil and other conditions. Fall fertilizing by a professional (North Central Florida customers choose our friends at Live Oak Pest Control for all their fall fertilization needs), will allow these new plants as well as existing ones to store significant amounts of water and nutrients they need to survive winter and the beginning of spring.

Along with fall fertilization spreading a ground cover over new and existing flower beds will protect your landscape from cold and frosty winter nights. Pinestraw is one of the most widely used mulches for projects of all sizes ranging from small residential projects to industrial complexes and even along the sides of highways. Using pine straw in your landscaping projects has been a preferred choice for garden and plant bed ground cover for homeowners, contractors, landscapers and garden centers for decades.

Start spreading pine straw in the fall to protect and retain moisture for your plants, trees and shrubs during the dry winter months. Pine straw is also organic mulch and is a great choice during the winter because it insulates the roots of plants. Preparing for the winter by using pine straw also has a long list of benefits including how: pine straw obstructs weed growth and erosion from rain, protects roots from frost, will protect landscaping from run off, will retain moisture in dry months, and adds acidity. Even though the needles are joined they are not too tight but not too loose to inhibit plant growth. In fall mulching with pine straw has an important purpose since temperatures in the late fall to winter months can change radically. The ground heaves as it freezes and thaws, forcing the root systems of many delicate plants up from the soil and exposing them to the elements. Nearly all plants are much healthier when they have a layer of pine needle mulch spread over their roots.

Many people make the mistake of using less reliable fall mulch such as hay in their garden. Hay carries seeds that will eventually sprout and cause weed problems in your garden bed in the spring which does not make it a good choice for fall ground cover.

Our pine straw is an excellent choice for your fall landscaping project and is a preferred choice of garden centers and landscapers throughout the United States. Our pine straw is hand raked, cleaned, baled and harvest by the finest pines in north Florida and southern Georgia. Pine straw bales contain over 3 cubic feet of pine straw and are highly compressed.

Give Custom Pine Straw a call today at (386) 935-6933 to schedule your order or get a quote now.

Choosing The Best Mulching Material

There are a variety of choices when deciding which type of mulch to apply to your yard. A good mulching material will protect to your plants, reduce erosion, and add beauty to your entire lawn. Going with organic mulch is always the best policy, but I will provide examples of other types as well.

Mulch is the organic or inorganic material that is placed over a yard’s soil, usually around trees, shrubs, plants, and in natural areas. It acts as a protective cover and provides numerous benefits to your landscape. Mulch acts as insulator by helping soil retain moisture and protecting tender plant roots from extreme temperatures. A deep layer of mulch will block bothersome weeds from getting the sunlight needed to grow. Plus, mulch prevents soil erosion and can add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

With all of the different mulching materials available, it may be difficult to choose the best mulch for your needs. Here are some benefits associated with the most popular organic mulching materials available:

Pine Straw:

Pine needles, also known as pine straw, are a popular mulching choice in landscapes found in the southeastern part of the U.S. It is a relatively inexpensive mulching material and since pine straw decomposes slowly, it lasts longer than some other organic mulching materials. Pine straw will not float or wash away easily and it adheres to sloped and hilly areas.

Pine Bark Nuggets:

Usually reddish-brown in color, these chucks of pine bark give any landscape a neat, natural appeal. Bark nuggets vary in size and can be as large as 3-inches long. Because of their size, they tend to break down more slowly than shredded material and act as a good soil conditioner. Pine bark nuggets do not compact like some mulch material. As a result, nuggets will float and may not stay in place during heavy rains like pine straw does. More expensive than pine needles, bark nuggets can attract undesirable pests like termites and other insects.

Wood Chips:

This mulching material consists of pieces of wood and bark of varying sizes. Many times wood chips are the result of the disposal of limbs and trees that have been pruned or removed. Mulch made from wood chips is a great way to recycle unwanted waste from trees.

Wood chips are not only an attractive addition to a yard, but provide good weed control. They do not wash away easily but can still float like nuggets and they help to conserve moisture in the soil. Wood chips are often used to mulch trails or large areas since they are fairly inexpensive.

As wood chips decay, they consume nitrate. You may need to offset this by applying a light layer of a high-nitrate fertilizer. To prevent stem rot or other diseases, do not use wood chips around soft-stemmed plants. Wood chips can also attract termites and other insects.

Shredded Wood Mulch:

This mulch is very good at suppressing weed growth and is slow to decompose. Shredded wood compacts well and will not wash away easily, making it a good choice for hillsides or sloped areas. Shredded mulch varies in color depending on what type of bark is used. It can also be dyed to prolong the richness of the color.

In addition to organic mulches, inorganic materials like rocks, rubber, and plastic can be used as mulch. These materials will be more expensive and longer lasting than the previous organic mulch choices. Kostas Menegakas is the owner and manager of Landscapes R Us, a local and regional landscape design company based in High Point, NC. Take a look at our pine straw product today, we cater to individuals and business ordering in bulk.