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Easy ways to gather pine straw for mulch?  RSS feed

 
Miranda Converse
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There are acres of pine trees surrounding my property with literal tons (at least two feet deep in places!) of pine straw that I would like to use as mulch. I probably have about 1/4-1/2 acre of area that I am working on turning into a garden and would like to start with mulching it but it is proving much more labor intensive than I had anticipated.
The area of pine straw that I rake up never seems to cover the same area where I lay it down (clumps up and makes it hard to spread). Luckily I have a pickup that I can use to haul the stuff but raking it up is a pain. I'm using a metal rake with short 90 degree prongs, not sure what the name of it is. A lot of the needles are matted so I have to jam the prongs in, pull it up and roll it like sod, but more difficult that sod because the roll breaks after about two turns and I have to start a new roll. Then I have to fight with smaller trees and catbrier. Is there a better tool or method than this?
There's people who sell pine straw here and it's pretty cheap so I imagine there must be some easier way than what I'm doing. I'm about to break down and buy some but I would hate to do that just because I'm lazy and there are tons of it for free...Or hell, I might just start my garden under the pine trees where the mulch already is haha
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Location: Officially Zone 7a, nearer 6b, SW Tennessee
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Pithfork? I used that my first year. We don't have a forest, just a neighbor's edge that is no longer matted down. The garden rake is sufficient now.
 
Russell Olson
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I gather pine straw from my deck and garage roof every year when the trees shed. I just sweep it off into a trailer. Perhaps when you see the needles start to get ready to drop you could lay out a large tarp or several. I gave up raking exactly for the reasons you state. Be aware that mulching with pine straw is going to add acid to your soil, I only use mine under the blueberries, strawberries, and other acid loving plants. Good luck!
 
Miranda Converse
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I just might try the pitchfork. I don't think we could pick anything up with it but it might be easier to rake if I break it up first...

There are no pine trees near any man-made structures so sweeping is out. Tarp might work but I would need a whole bunch of tarps to collect as mulch as I'm hoping to use. I'm only doing 1/2-1/4 acre this year but I would like to eventually do an acre or two...Blueberries are exactly what I want to grow Planted about 20 trees last year and didn't mulch. The weeds ended up taller than the blueberries (due to my negligence) and we lost a few when we started tackling the weeds just because we didn't see them and trampled them.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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People that sell it usually use hay rakes and balers. And do it regularly so it isn't a mat.

Look up a mulch fork. Like a pitchfork with a shovel handle and lots of times, like 20-30. Works great.

What about renting a small skid loader?
 
Zach Muller
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I used a pitchfork and it worked quite well for the 2 pines I have. My neighbors yard is all pines and he swears by the broad fork to clean up his needles.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Lay a small tarp (like 10 feet by 10 feet) on the ground, and shovel the pine straw onto it with a pitch fork. Bundle up the tarp corners together and haul into the truck. Repeat. Enlist friends!
 
Alder Burns
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On my former Georgia homestead I gathered pinestraw all the time. Pitchfork and wheelbarrow. But I did go through an area first and gather up all the fallen sticks and clip out the thorny vines....gathering these into piles.
 
Dave de Basque
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Location: Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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This seems like a good time to throw out a controversial sub-topic. But I'm sure the real answer is out there, and as always, it's easier to find, with more wisdom attached, due to the collective wisdom of permies.

"Snails and slugs don't like pine needles."

So if I mulch with pine needles, I never need to worry about snails and slugs again! Right?

Go!

PS - Thought about creating a new topic for this one, but I figured, we've already got most of the pine needle conoisseurs following this thread right now, so just tag it on the end. Anyone who has more to say about ways to collect them please feel free to ignore me and respond on that subject, which is, after all, what the thread is supposed to be about.
 
Miranda Converse
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Thank you to everyone for all the great ideas! I will be trying some different things and I'll let you all know what works best! I especially like the idea of raking everything onto the tarp and using that to get it into the truck. The hardest part of moving the needles is picking them up, so that will eliminate that issue. Also going to look for a mulch fork next time I'm out at Lowes...
 
Casie Becker
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I use my gardening fork for moving mulch, and aerating the lawn, and weeding the garden, and stirring in amendments... They cost a little more, but unless you're moving a huge amount of mulch, you might find it worth spending the extra to get the slightly more heavy duty tool.
 
Miranda Converse
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Dave Forrest wrote:This seems like a good time to throw out a controversial sub-topic. But I'm sure the real answer is out there, and as always, it's easier to find, with more wisdom attached, due to the collective wisdom of permies.

"Snails and slugs don't like pine needles."

So if I mulch with pine needles, I never need to worry about snails and slugs again! Right?

Go!

PS - Thought about creating a new topic for this one, but I figured, we've already got most of the pine needle conoisseurs following this thread right now, so just tag it on the end. Anyone who has more to say about ways to collect them please feel free to ignore me and respond on that subject, which is, after all, what the thread is supposed to be about.


That's pretty interesting. I don't think I've ever seen a slug on my property (surrounded by pines) but I know they are around here because I see them at work (not surrounded by pines). Haven't seen any snails at all, except for at the beach...Although something has been eating my greens, I just haven't figured out what yet...
 
Thomas Partridge
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Location: Zone 7a
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I think the main issue is not how to gather the pine needles but how to transport it. Even if you are only taking it to the truck to take it elsewhere or even if you are just putting it into the tractor you still have to lift it or drag it.

With that limitation wouldn't the old rake and tarp method work just as well?
 
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