If you live in an area where pine cones and needles are abundant, you may find them annoying and dispose of them, but they can be put to good use.
Can you compost pine cones and pine needles? Fortunately, pine cones and pine needles are compostable; while it may take some time, it is possible.
This article reveals all the information you need about composting pine cones and pine needles and some tips to help speed up this process and make it easier if you want to know other uses of pine cones and pine needles.
Composting Pine Needles and Cones
Yes, you can! If you have a chunk of pine needles and pine cones in your yard or around you, the good news is that it can be composted. Although it may take a relatively longer time than some compostable materials, you can achieve this easily.
The composting can be done the same way with other materials, but there will be some modifications. As usual, your compost pile should be moist and aerated. You will need to cover it and occasionally add other organic matter to the pile.
How to Compost Pine Needles
Pine needles are conifers from the Pinaceae family, and there are over 126 species of this plant. Pine needles can be composted, but it usually takes a long time to achieve this. Normally, this plant will not be considered compostable because they are acidic, but because they are known as a good carbon source.
Start by making a compost pile; for this, you will need the following.
- bin that can contain the amount of organic matter needed for this process
- Green and brown organic matter in 2 parts to 1 part, respectively
- Enough water and exposure to air
Green organic matter includes food waste, green waste, and non-hazardous wood waste. Green pine needles fit into this category, brown organic matter refers to dry and fibrous plant waste, and pine needles fit perfectly into this category. The steps below should help you compost pine needles.
- You can start your compost pile on bare ground or do this in a bit if you wish to keep it contained. If you make your compost on bare ground, aeration will be possible through the action of earthworms.
- Lay down the light materials first; this will help any moisture or water properly drain.
- If you have green pine needles and dried ones, alternate between the two in layers. Start by using the dried pile at the bottom.
- Your green pine needles serve as a source of green organic matter, which provides nitrogen to the pile, but if there is insufficient green matter, you can add grass clippings or wheatgrass as a nitrogen source.
- Your pile needs to be moist at all times, and you can achieve this by watering it constantly or letting the rain do the job.
- Covering your compost pile is important to maintain the heat and moisture from the components mixed. This can be done using a plastic sheet or even a wood covering; it is also helpful to prevent your pile from being drenched with water by rain.
- Using a shovel, turn your compost occasionally to aerate the pile. This is very important for compost piles in a bin, but if your pile is on the ground, earthworms can do the job of aerating the pile. Turning is also essential for mixing in other new ingredients instead of piling hem in layers.
How To Compost Pine Needles Faster
Pine needles do not compost as fast as other compostable materials because they have a waxy coating and an acidic nature. These features make them immune to the actions of microorganisms that aid the decomposing process; the tips below should help the decomposition of pine needles faster.
1. Pre-digest The Pine Needles
If you have the main compost pile and intend to add the pine needles to them, you can allow them to rot in a separate pile before adding them to the main compost pile. With time, the action of water, heat, and air should break down the waxy layer and allow a successful decomposition.
2. Hot Manure is a Good Idea For Composting Pine Needles
Hot manure refers to manure with a high level of nitrogen; a good source of this manure can be obtained from animals.
The more nitrogen in the compost pile, the faster they decompose; fresh animal manure has the highest amount of nitrogen. You can consider turkey, swine, sheep, and chicken as good manure sources.
To use hot manure properly, mix it with the pine needle and other brown organic matter before transferring it to the main compost pile. For best results, use about 10% of pine needles in the total ratio of green organic matter to brown organic matter.
3. Shredding The Pine Needles
The smaller the pieces of pine needles, the faster it is to compost them. You can do this by passing the pine needles through a shredder or using a lawnmower to break them. You must not use a shredder; you can use equipment that will make the size of the pine needles smaller. This follows the rule of a large surface area to volume ratio.
How to Compost Pine Cones
If pine needles are hard to compost, pine cones are harder to compost. Aside from having a waxy outer layer just like pine needles, pine cones are also harder, making them so difficult to compost, but the steps below should help you make that pine cone compost.
- Before you start your compost pile, cut the pine cones into pieces using a shovel.
- Lay the pine cones in the bottom layer for better aeration, and then other green piles of organic matter can come above. Alternate between brown and green organic matter when layering them
- Keep the compost pile moist by watering it frequently or letting the rain do the job.
- Cover the pile to prevent the rain from over-soaking the pile and to also preserve the heat and moisture in a pile.
- Lastly, you will need to turn your pile with a shovel or pitchfork to allow ventilation of the pile.
You can also use hot manure to speed up the decomposition of pine cones, and just like in pine needles, they should not be mixed with the dirt but with other carbon-containing organic matter instead.
Other Uses Of Pine Cones And Pine Needles
If you have access to many pine cones or pine needles and do not want to compost them, you can use them for other purposes. Below are some other beneficial uses of pine cones and pine needles.
Uses of pine cones
- Making a bird feeder
- Used as mulch
- Home for insects like ladybugs
- You can use pine cones to fill your planters or empty containers
- Instead of small stones, you can use pine cones as decorative borders.
Uses of Pine Needles
- They can be used in the kitchen to make smoked meat, vinegar, and tea
- Pine needles can be used medicinally to make cough syrups
- It can be used as an air freshener
- They can be used to make baskets
- Like pine cones, they can also be used as mulch
- They can be used for decorative pathways
- They can be used as bedding for chickens
When pine cones or needles are used for mulching, they should be away from areas with access to fire like a barbecue or grilling spot. The amount of resin they contain makes them highly flammable.
What To Not Put in Your Pine Cone or Pine Needle Compost Pile
You’re mistaken if you assume that any decaying matter can be used in a compost pile. Below are some materials that should not be composted with pine cones, pine needles, or other compost piles.
- Meat, fish, or bones. These lure in pests
- Diseased plants or perennial weeds
- If the compost is used on food crops, then use animal manure
- Peels from banana, orange, or peach should be avoided as they contain a little pesticide which can kill some of the microorganisms and earthworms
- Keep black walnut leaves far from your compost pile
You don’t have to throw away all the pine cones or pine needles in your yard, and if you are wondering if they can be used to make compost, they can.
Composting Pine Needles and Cones are not easy and will take longer to accomplish, but if you shred these conifers or pre-digest them, this will be easier.
We have discussed some tips to help you compost pine cones and pine needles and the uses of these plants. We have listed some materials that should not go to your compost pile.
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We trust this article helped you learn more about composting pine needles and cones. You may also want to check out How to Make Homemade Compost Catalyst.
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