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Pine mulch ties up nutrients?

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Cubguy, Sep 9, 2007.

  1. Cubguy

    Cubguy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    Do to alkaline clay soil I was told to use pine mulch around a southern magnolia to help make the soil more acidic. Also used it around some crept Myrtle trees. Now I hear the pine mulch ties up up nutrients in the soil. These are new plantings on that we are trying to get max growth.

    Thanks for any help on this!

    Paul
     
  2. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    It does. I worked at an arboretum here in southern OH for a number of years and they used nothing but Scotch pine needles in the volunteer beds. They CONSTANTLY had to foliar feed due to the effects of the mixing of the acidic needles with the soil. Man, it's worth it though. They last FOREVER if you're careful not to blow them away with a blower. That's what I use at my place now, almost everywhere. I only mulch my front yard areas once every 5-6 years, and I have living mulch-machines growing in the back!
     
  3. Focal Point Landscapes

    Focal Point Landscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 402

    What is the source of your info ? I know empirically that pinestraw has been used for mulch throughout the south for decades with no negative effects on plant growth , for all types of plants .
     
  4. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    Well. To expand on the point: The plants, perennials mostly, were lackluster and yellow in the margins. The arboretum director and I had worked with CLC Labs in Westerville OH on the issue, and Chuck Darrah at CLC used a number of the very high pH samples ( probably 7.7 to 7.9) taken from the arboretum to draw his conclusion. We also sent plant tissue samples to Ohio State University to clarify the exact nutrients that were deficient. O.S.U. determined in writing that unless measures were not made to lower pH (which wasn't going to happen because of certain stupid politics at the time) that supplemmetal feedings of micronutrients of Fe, Mn, Mg, would be needed. This is an area of limestone / dolomite subsoil and bedrock and we sit at the very southernmost edge of the last glacial advance, so it's important to ask CLC for help when there's an issue like this. The conlusion was and is that it works HERE.
     
  5. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,564

    Marcos,
    the pine needles were NOT the cause of the problems they had...

    pine needles will acidify the soils but break down very rapidly. If your soil is already acidic pH<5.5 then they would not be a good choice because they would further acidify the soil and would "tie up" certain micronutrients.

    If you have a high pH like the one Marcos is describing then pine needles are a great choice. The reason marcos's plants were yellow is because at that high of a pH Iron is sequestered and unavailable to the plant. The chlorophyll molecule has an iron molecule at it's core just like hemoglobin. Less iron = less chlorophyll= less green............the reason had nothing to do with pine needles, it was the conditions that you described in the second post.

    We fight high pH soils here all the time our soil is 7.5-9.... pine needles are a good way to acidify the soils..


    to determine if the needles are good or bad for you check your pH.
     
  6. Focal Point Landscapes

    Focal Point Landscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 402

    Thanks for the explanation , Yardpro .
     
  7. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    Well, first of all. I never said the pine needles were the CAUSE of the problem.
    I simply indicated that they were the PREFERENCE of the volunteers at the arboretum then (and myself now). On the contrary, we knew the pH was high, and tried like hell to talk the volunteer committee into using split pea sulfur in several split applications in an attempt to help lower it in addition to the gradual natural work of the pine straw. But if you've ever worked with groups of SENIOR CITIZEN VOLUNTEERS..... :cry: :dizzy: you get the picture? Also: Up here, Scotch pine needles tend to be MUCH more rot resistant than anything I've ever seen, incuding Austian or White pine.
     
  8. Cubguy

    Cubguy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 23

    Thanks for the input guys. Down here in South Texas the pine mulch readily available is lumber byproducts from the lumber mills it looks like ground up lumber. I guess from the posts that it only becomes a problem when the PH gets too acidic.

    Cubguy
     
  9. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,564


    yes you did... read the very first sentence of your original post....you responded that pine needles do tie up nutrients.........

    they do not, especially in alkaline soils
     
  10. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    Hey! The 'Last Word Syndrome' looms large here!!! Has my ex wife taken up the handle of Yard Pro ??? :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
     

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