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You can use many materials for mulching, but you have to buy most. Over time, this can be a costly endeavor, especially if you have a large piece of land. Fortunately, there is always an abundance of pine cones year-round, regardless of whether you have pine trees on your property or not.
The question is, can you use pine cones for mulching, and is it any good? Pine cone mulch is just as good as any other natural mulch you use in the garden. However, you have to be aware of its properties so you can use it on suitable crops. Pine cones decompose slower than other types of mulch, so it is best used for mulching perennial plants or plants that do not need constant fertilization.
Pine cones can be an eyesore in your garden if you do not know how to utilize them in your garden or landscaping. Lucky you because you are about to learn how you can do that! But first, where do you get these woody gems?
Where Can I Get Pine Cones for Mulching?
You do not have to have pine trees in your yard to get pine cones. If you live in an area with pine trees, you probably walk past cones every day.
You can also get pine cones from your local park under the trees.
Thankfully, it is not illegal to bag them up and take them back home. The best time to do this is during the fall season when they are in abundance. You do not have to worry about anybody stopping you from collecting as many pine cones as you need for your garden.
So, do you pour them out in your garden and leave them? Keep reading to find out more!
How to Use Pine Cones as Mulch
Pine cones are woody clusters containing pine seeds held together by a natural resin. These cones fall off the trees when the seeds are ripe so they can fall into the ground and grow. This is their natural reproduction cycle, and after a while, the cones begin to decompose due to moisture and other natural elements, providing nutrients to the soil.
Pine cones come in different sizes and shapes depending on the species of the tree. We suggest picking the smaller pine cones for mulching because they are less bulky.
You can use pine cones as mulch when they are whole or shredded. Both types offer different values to your garden (which we will look at later in this article).
It is common to think that shredded pine cones decompose faster than whole ones, but that is not true. Both take longer to break down, and the mulch is best used on trees and shrubs rather than annual plants. There are several ways to shred your pine cones.
For example, you can put them in a wood chipper, run them over with a lawnmower or smash them with the backside of a shovel. The idea is to make them less bulky and increase volume because, typically, your garden needs about 2-3 inches of mulch.
Pine cones can be acidic so use them as mulch for acid-loving plants like blueberries and flowers like hydrangeas. If you have none of these in your garden, you can sprinkle some baking soda or dolomite lime on the soil before putting your mulch to help neutralize the soil PH.
Benefits of Using Pine Cone Mulch in Your Garden
The primary benefit of using pine cone mulch in your garden is the cost: free!
If you have pine cones in your backyard, you can collect them in bulk and store them for future use in your garden. You can also freely collect as many pine cones from walk paths and parks in your area.
Whole pine cones are perfect for protecting against wind erosion because of their concave shape, which helps air circulation. They also help prevent your plants from pet vandalism because of their prickly nature. In addition, the resin on pine cones helps to disperse rainwater into droplets reducing soil erosion during the rainy season.
Like any other mulch, pine cones help control soil temperature, whether whole or shredded. Pine cone mulch will help keep the soil moist during the summer, preventing the roots from overheating. During the cold season, your plant roots will not freeze either because the pine cone mulch help retain heat in the soil.
Pine cones are also resistant to mold and fungus, meaning the mulch will not encourage fungal infection on your plants. Additionally, pine cone mulch also prevents the growth of weeds around your plants, ensuring they stay healthy throughout their lifespan.
Lastly, pine cone mulch adds aesthetic value to your garden, especially where plants grow poorly. For example, you can use the cones on plants in deep shade areas where it looks a bit gloomy. Besides that, pine cone mulch can prevent some plants from being blown by the wind.
Because of their unique natural shape, you can use pine cone mulch on plants along the pathway in your compound to improve your landscaping.
Disadvantages of Pine Cone Mulch
Pine cones are bulky and can take years to decompose. Therefore, you cannot use pine cone mulch on plants that need quick fertilization like annuals because they have a short lifespan. Remember, one of the main goals of mulching is to add nutrients to the soil, and some plants need these nutrients more frequently than others.
Pine cones are also hard to find in urban areas where pine trees are uncommon or only found around forests. The resin on the cones is also highly flammable, and a little spark can set your whole garden on fire. Therefore, use pine cone mulch away from your outdoor kitchen or barbecue area in the backyard.
Besides mulching, there are other ways to use pine cones in your gardens. For example, you can add them to your compost pile or use them as container fillers for your container garden. Unlike other fillers, pine cones are light and will decompose over time adding nutrients to your deep container plants.