How to compost pine needles

Written by cindy hill
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Pine needles make a good, attractive mulch for landscaping and perennial beds, but they decompose slowly and are slightly acidic. Together with their prickly nature, this makes them less useful as vegetable garden mulch unless they are fully composted. Pine needles add volume and necessary carbon components to the backyard compost bin. Properly prepared and mixed in a balanced compost pile, pine needles can help produce valuable garden compost for soil amendment and mulching within a few months.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Garden shredder or lawnmower
  • Compost bin or pile
  • Green composting materials (weeds, kitchen vegetable scraps, lawn clippings)
  • Dirt or manure
  • Pitchfork

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  1. 1

    Shred pine needles into small pieces with a garden shredder or by running over them with a lawnmower.

  2. 2

    Place a 2-inch layer of green composting material at the bottom of a compost bin or in an area you've designated for starting a free-standing compost pile.

  3. 3

    Place a 2-inch layer of shredded pine needles on top of the layer of green composting material. Spread a 1/2-inch layer of dirt or manure on top of the shredded pine needles.

  4. 4

    Moisten the compost layers with water. Repeat layering green compost material, shredded pine needles, and dirt or manure until pile reaches 3 feet high or the top of the compost bin, watering in between layers.

  5. 5

    Water frequently enough to keep the compost pile damp. When the pile settles to about 1/3 of its original height, turn it with a pitchfork.

  6. 6

    Turn the pile with a pitchfork once every three days after initial turning. Inspect the compost carefully as you turn it. When its components have broken down into a rich, chocolate-cake-type brown mass, it is ready for use in the garden.

Tips and warnings

  • Pine needle acidity is eliminated once the needles are completely composted, so there is no need to add lime to pine needle compost unless soil testing clearly indicates that it is needed.

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