Lakeside Centre  

The South's Ground Cover of Choice: Pine Straw

Download this month’s article about how to save on your pine straw cost.

Jump to Pine Straw: Advantages | Misconceptions | Photo Examples | Types | Alternatives

Don’t miss the regular Plant of the Month feature.

Advantages of Pine Straw
  1. Light Weight – Spreads easier, which means less labor costs
  2. Neat Appearance – Stays put and does not wash away with rain or blow away on a windy day
  3. Weed Suppressant – Keeps weeds at bay
  4. Moisture Retention – Allows water to get to the soil and holds it in
  5. Cool Roots – Facilitates root growth by maintaining or cooling plant temperature
  6. Erosion Control – Holds soil where grass doesn't grow
  7. Renewable Resource – Sustains forests because trees do not have to be cut down
  8. Visually Appealing – Adds color, contrast and texture to landscape
  9. Environmentally Friendly – Breaks down naturally and becomes part of the soil
  10. Pest Free – Does not attract termites

Misconceptions about Pine Straw
  1. Pine straw can be installed without being managed.
    Beds covered in pine straw look best when bed lines are properly trenched, straw is free of debris, and remnants are cleaned up after installation. At every installation, a NatureScapes account manager ensures these steps are taken so that each and every bed looks its best.

  2. Other types of mulch last longer.
    Site conditions play a role in the length of time pine straw and wood mulch look good. For instance, if a mulch-covered bed is covered in fall leaves, much of the mulch will be raked up with the leaves. If the bed is in direct sunlight, the color of the mulch will fade more quickly.

  3. Pine straw is too acidic and some plants will not thrive in pine straw-covered beds. Pine straw is slightly acidic and it becomes less acidic as it breaks down. Therefore, pine straw has no real negative effect on soil acidity or plant health. In fact, rainwater has a normal pH between 5.5 and 6.0. This is similar to the pH of pine straw that is at least three weeks old.

Pine Straw Installation: The Good & Bad

While it may be difficult to see at first glance, the difference in these installations is the care in which the pine straw was spread. The property on the left looks nice and neat with the pine straw spread within the confines of the bed and around the flowers, not on them. The bed on the right is not properly trenched, and there is no distinct boundary between it and the grass. Haphazardly placed pine straw is also in the bushes and creeping onto the lawn.


Types of Pine Straw

Natural Pine Straw – NatureScapes uses the highest quality of pine straw available, which means it is free of debris, pine cones and dirt. Most of the pine straw is harvested from forests in South Georgia and North Florida. Varying lengths of pine needles are also available. Longleaf pine needles average 14 inches in length; slash pine needles average nine inches in length and are common in commercial or home installations; and shredded pine needles are used for gardens and small flower beds to lock in moisture.

Synthetic Pine Straw – While there are aesthetic advantages to synthetic pine straw, there are no natural benefits to the soil or plants the material covers. Made from recycled plastic, the material holds in heat during hot summer months, and the amount decreases over time when beds are cleaned. While this may be a viable option for some properties, it is not one NatureScapes recommends.

Painted Pine Straw – Yes, pine straw can discolor over time and there are products available that can “refresh” it with paint. This paint comes in different colors and is applied with a spray gun. If you like the natural look, this may not be for you; however, it is an alternative to spreading pine straw more often than necessary to keep your beds looking new.

Alternatives to Pine Straw

Common mulch alternatives to pine straw include leaves, shredded hardwood mulch, ground cover plantings, pine bark, wood chips and more. NatureScapes Vice President Rick Barnes rated these forms in the fall, and here are the types that received his highest rating of four stars.

  • Pine straw is good for all bed areas, but decomposes quickly.
  • Leaves provide a good base for mulch and wooded areas, and rejuvenate soil.
  • Shredded hardwood mulch is good for all bed areas and is long lasting.
  • Ground cover plantings can replace shaded turf and reduce mulch expense.

Plant of the Month: Flowering Dogwood

Graceful and compact with brilliant spring blooms, the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a prevalent landscaping option. It thrives under the shady canopies of larger trees with moist, slightly acidic soil and little direct sunlight. Dogwoods are among the earliest spring bloomers typically flowering in early April. Beautiful clusters of individual flowers range in color based on variety and can remain showy for two to three weeks. Pruning should be done after flowering, but before next year’s flower buds form in July. It is a modestly sized deciduous tree, perfect for residential or smaller yards. Suitably located, this popular tree can live up to 80 years.

Customer Spotlight: Lakeside Centre

“The park looks so great! The work done at the second entrance has made a huge difference already and the tenants love all of the daffodils coming up everywhere. Thanks for doing such a great job here.”

- Anita Scarborough, Senior Property Manager, TPA Realty Services, LLC