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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pine Needles are a Benefit to Desert Soils

Q. We have nine pine trees and they are dropping lots of needles. We have a large berm under the trees and water inside the berm twice weekly. Should the needles be removed or left in inside the berm?

A. The needles are fine. If composted, they are said to be slightly acidic and will benefit our alkaline soils. If they are left alone in the basin, they will help mulch the soil, conserve water, reduce weed emergence and benefit the soil in general.

            A lot of needles blew out of the trees during the last storm event we had.  This is a normal occurrence and nothing to worry about.

Pine needles die for lots of reasons. Sometimes it is just old age. Some pines can keep needles on limbs for five years or more. Others only about three. They stay loosely attached or caught in the limbs even though they are dead. A big wind comes and blows them out of the canopy.

            If pine trees are getting plenty of water and fertilized once a year they will have a thick, lush canopy and grow about 12 to 18 inches a year. If water is not enough, they will not grow as much and not have a dense canopy. They will survive like that but just not be as thick and lush.

            Your berms should extend three to four feet from the trunk and deep and level enough to hold about three to four inches of water. Your watering frequency sounds right. Just make sure it gets enough water each time to move into the soil two to three feet or more. In sandy soils water needs to go deeper and more often.

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