(Here, I take a moment to appreciate the non-gardening – the lyrical and linguistic – contributions of these trees. When Ray Charles sings of "moonlight through the pines" in Georgia on My Mind, these are the trees he's talking about. When somebody refers to somebody who's had way too much to drink and says he's "higher than a Georgia pine," these are the trees he's talking about.)
So, here I am, back in 2002; I've left Georgia and my ready supply of pine straw and come here to Conneciticut. But, for a decade, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find this supreme material. That is, I couldn't find any close enough to drive to. And, I wouldn't pay high shipping costs.
I even telephoned Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta and was told none of its stores this far north carried the product, so I wound up using white pine needles mooched from friends with big trees. Those needles are soft and lacy and look good on the ground, but they decay faster than the tough ones from Dixie. I kept looking.
Then, when I least expected it, this summer I saw a stack of bales on the porch of the local purveyor of hardware, farm goods and building supplies – Shagbark is its name. Lest other gardeners discover this pine mine, I bought a quick 10 bales and immediately began spreading them around, three to four inches deep.
|What better place to start than the strawberry patch, now berryless.|
|Straw adds texture to area near front door.|
|I've always loved the crunch and forest look of piney paths.|
Pine needles not only look good (to me), but they keep weeds down, blocking light. The needles also preserve moisture in the soil and acidify it as they break down. And, pine straw does not wash away as easily as wood chips and mulch. That's hugely important in these times of gully-washing rains, following long periods of drought.
You're right if you think I missed this stuff. I like it. I love it. I want some more of it. Gotta restock soon; I'm down to just three bales. Stashed in the garage/supply department/potting shed.
Not enough. I have more spaces to cover, more paths to line. And, any month now I'll be needing to mulch a few plants that aren't from around here and are gamely pushing climate-zone limits but need some mighty fine protection. Down-home style.