Has anyone ever tried to compost with pine needles?
I know most gardeners say that pine needles are acidic and good for mulching acid loving plants...but can composting them create a rich, microbial environment in a heap?
I will be doing the 18 day Berkley method HOT compost with my pine needles out of my own curiosity. Turning every two days aerating the heap, after the first four days of no turning.
The reason for my curiosity is I have an abundant amount of pine needles that have been sitting behind my house for over 2 years.
The leaves that had fallen on the property are minimal with the amount of rain and wind this winter otherwise I would do the usual fall compost heap. Also, I just want to make use of my materials that are already on the property.
Obviously, I don't plan on composting JUST pine needles and will diversify my ingredients but we have plenty of it.
I know pine needles take a long time to decompose and want to break them down somehow maybe with a lawn mower.
Back when I lived in NJ, I added pine needles to compost all the time. I sucked them up along with the oak leaves using a lawnmower. They composted just fine.
While fresh pine needles are acidic, the compost they make is just about neutral. That is what a friend still back in NJ is saying. He pH tests his compost before using it in his gardens. I don't know if different pine trees have different pHs. But it's cheap to test the compost, so it's a good idea to do it.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
"Obviously, I don't plan on composting JUST pine needles" so WHAT will you put in that pile?
down here in February there is not much green stuff available, up your way probably even less
the pine needles you want to compost are the ones fallen off the trees, right?
a big pile of chipped fresh, green pine tops compost quickly, brown and dry needles don't
do you grow blueberries or azaleas? mulch them with pine straw, they love it
I rake my pinestraw to piles, let them sit over winter and then run them thru the chipper,
makes something that looks and feels like old peat, I use it for mulch
I agree, pine needles compost just fine, although they do take a bit longer than grass clippings or shredded leaves.
I think most people's concern about this is due to the very dry environment, under a lone pine tree planted in a lawn, that inhibits decomposition. You see a thick bed of pine needles, under a dense pine tree canopy, that appears to be unchanging and just staying there, and it leads to thinking that they don't break down easily. If you look at a more diverse environment of mixed deciduous and evergreen trees, where the pines are competing and branches aren't as dense to shed the water, you'll note that the needles decompose almost as readily as normal leaves. We compost the extra needles that we don't use for mulch. I don't try to compost quickly, we just leave the piles for a year turning them over occasionally. I don't know how well they would fast compost using the method you described, you'd just have to try it and see. Experimentation and personal experience is always helpful, as climate, conditions, and composting flora/fauna differ from region to region.
Oh, and yes, the needles do make an awesome mulch, too. Our (acid loving) blueberries absolutely thrive in a thick bed of pine needle mulch, even though out heavy clay soil is not really to their liking.
Picking them up with the lawnmower really speeds up composting. Whole needles are resilient but once they are broken the compost and leave a great structure behind.
But they are such a good mulch I would use them there first.
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since I had no idea who-the-heck Mr Berkley is, I looked it up
found this: http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/hot-compost-composting-in-18-days/ on this page it says: "2.The C:N (carbon:nitrogen) balance in the composting materials is approximately 25-30:1"
and alittle further down: "In the hot composting method, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in the compost materials needs to be between 25 to 30 parts carbon to one-part nitrogen by weight."
and "◾Materials that are high in carbon are typically dry, “brown” materials, such as sawdust, cardboard, dried leaves, straw, branches and other woody or fibrous materials that rot down very slowly."
and "Browns = High Carbon C:N
Pine needles 80:1"
so let me ask again: what will you put in your compost pile together with the pine needles?