Pine Needles in Dewar, IA


The acidity

The debate has waged on for many years regarding the acidity of pine straw (also commonly called Pine Needles and pinestraw mulch) and the effects that potential acidity may have on soil acidity and subsequent plant health when used as a mulch. 800-408-5480


Straw is acidic

Pine Needles Guys have read in numerous places that pine straw is acidic, it will turn your soil acidic, and only plants that like acidic soil can be grown with pine straw as mulch. Based on Pine Needles Guys extensive past experience, I've publicly disputed that statement by stating that although pine straw in itself is slightly acidic.


Less acidic

As it breaks down it becomes less acidic over time and has no real negative effect on soil acidity or plant health. I've done some basic research in the past to support that argument, but have been interested in further research and testing in order to strengthen that claim.

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Pine Needles in Dewar, IA

Pine Straw testing

Recently, Pine Needles Guys began performing analytic testing of the acidity, or pH (defined below), of various ages and forms of pine straw and soil to assist in separating fact from fiction. The results of those tests are summarized below.

If you aren't familiar with the term pH, it is simply a measure of a substance's acidity or alkalinity based on a range (scale) of 0 to 14, with 7.0 being considered neutral, less than 7 being defined as acidic, and greater than 7 being defined as being alkaline.

Sometimes the pH scale can be a little misleading though. For example, we know that rain water is healthy for our gardens in Dewar, IA and we normally think of it as being "pure" and thus somewhat "neutral." But, rain water actually has a normal pH of between 5.5 and 6.0, which is slightly acidic on the pH scale. Before you decide to swear off the benefits of rain water though, rest assured it is still a safe and healthy bet for your plants, one reason of which I'll discuss later in this article.

Pine Straw in Dewar, IA

Pine Needles Guys first test consisted of green needles, pulled fresh from the tree. As in all of the needle and soil tests, the needles were placed in a non-reactive container and mixed with an appropriate volume of distilled water following standard analytical testing guidelines and using a proper and calibrated pH meter (single body electrode using standard buffer solutions). The pH of pure distilled water in the container was 6.4. After adding the needles for 10 minutes of soak time, the pH of the green needles was 6.3. To simulate rain water flushing to determine the pH of the leachate of the needles, the needles were allowed to soak for 24 hours and the resulting pH was 4.5. To further simulate the natural rain and drying cycle, the needles were rinsed and then allowed to dry outside for 7 days.

Pine Straw

The 24 hour soak test was then repeated and the pH was 5.0. The rinsing, 7 day drying cycle and 24 hour soak test was again repeated, followed by two separate 14 day drying cycles and 24 hour soak tests. The pH results were 5.1, 6.2, and 6.5 respectively. From this round of tests, it is clear that the fresh green needles leachate was initially acidic at 4.5, but following several simulations of rain and drying cycles over a few weeks time, the solution (the terms leachate and solution are used interchangeably here) was at the equivalent of rainwater pH. Over a period of 46 days, the needles were no longer acidic, with the pH being that of distilled water.

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Pine Needles in Dewar, IA
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