Pine straw can truly be a great benefit in the landscape when used to our advantage. Here are a few ways it can help.

Mowing: Any time you can cut down the amount of mowing you have to do, you’re saving time and money.

Contoured pine straw islands look attractive and can replace large areas of high maintenance lawn. Even with a few plants or trees, these areas can give character to an otherwise drab landscape.

Watering: Sunshine and wind take much of the moisture away from our valuable plants. Just 3 to 5 inches of pine straw mulch can conserve a generous amount of this moisture and reduce future watering needs.

Weeding: Pine straw is great organic mulch that provides a layer of protection from weeds. This keeps us from having to pull weeds as often.

It reduces the amount of chemicals or herbicides used in the yard, too.

Here are some other tips to keep your pine straw beds looking sharp:

Don’t remove the old pine straw. One of the benefits of mulching is the organic matter it adds to the soil as it decomposes.

Replenish. Don’t replace. Just add new straw on top of the old to make a layer at least 3 inches thick. That’s the least it will take to be effective.

Don’t pile it too thick. Remember, 4 to 6 inches is plenty (more than this will not help the plants).

Don’t push it up close to the stem. Especially with azaleas, mulch piled up around the stem can cause a second root system to develop. That often happens at the expense of the deeper root system, which leaves the azalea or other plants even more susceptible to drought damage.

Don’t just stuff it under the branches. Spread it beyond the drip line, (that’s the line right under the outermost leaves). Getting it over the feeder roots is the key.

Mulch young trees. It’s really important in the first two or three years of establishment. With shallow rooted trees like dogwoods, redbud, or crape myrtles, it’s good to always have a mulch layer around them. Don’t put plastic or landscape fabric under the straw unless your main purpose is complete weed control. If that is the case, you won’t need as thick a layer of straw.

Pine straw that is 2 inches deep after it settles does 90 percent of what you would expect the fabric or line to do. If you put down 4 or 5 inches of fresh pine straw, it will settle to about 2 inches.