Waste not want not. Mulching with Pine Needles

The fairy lights are twinkling, there’s holly and mistletoe from the garden hanging on the front door, delicious smells are wafting from the kitchen and there in the midst of it all is the Christmas tree resplendent in gold and red, the jewel in the Christmas crown. I love Christmas, I love the glitz and glitter, the gift giving and the cosy nights spent in front of the fire but barely is 12th night upon us before my thoughts have turned to the garden, the allotment and the growing year ahead!

Not only is the Christmas tree a beautiful centrepiece to the Christmas celebration but it’s also great for the garden. Every year without fail I collect the pine needles from my tree and remind friends and family to do the same all in the name of a boost for my Blueberries! Blueberries thrive in acidic soil (PH 4.5-5.5) and whether you choose to grow your fruit bushes directly in the ground or in containers pine needles can enrich your growing medium.

I grow my Blueberries in pots full of a mix of Ericaceous compost and leaf mould mainly because the soil in the veg garden isn’t acidic enough to meet their needs and also because it allows me to move them around the garden to maximise the time spent in sunlight. I mulch the plants in spring using pine needles collected from my Christmas tree, thus adding a much needed boost to the soil and also repressing any weeds that might fancy trying their luck!

Here’s what I do; once the tree has been stripped of its finery I sweep up any pine needles that have fallen on the floor and give the tree an extra shake for good measure! I then collect the needles in a bag and continue to do so until the tree is bare. Once the tree is outside I stand it in a place where I can continue to collect its fallen needles over the weeks and months to come. The longer that you keep the pine needles the less acidic they will be and there are some studies that suggest that mulching with pine needles makes only a negligible difference to the soil so I add the needles as they fall and whilst they are at their greenest and most acidic.

I’m of the opinion that adding the needles as a mulch to the Blueberries has made a difference the soil and to the plants productivity and believe that with regular feeding their inclusion can only be a good thing but even if the jury is out on the benefits of adding pine needles to your Blueberries anything that suppresses the dreaded weeds and contributes to the recycling of my Christmas tree has got to be a good thing!

You can read more fantastic practical smallholding advice by Rachel at Tweet @Digginginheels

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