We have a giant (at least 30 metre high) Norfolk Island Pine in our back yard.

Is there anything I could do to put the leaves to good use?

They don't make good use for composting or as part of the deep litter mix in my chicken coop because they don't break down fast enough.

Currently they get chucked in our Green (garden waste) recycle bin.

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Source: Wikipedia Public Domain

  • What happens with the waste in your garden recycle bin? – THelper Jan 30 '13 at 12:20
  • @THelper - It goes to one of those reclaimation places where they turn it into mountains of compost. They have the space and time to wait for these to break down. I only have a 60L compost bin and limited space to start a slow composting heap. – going Jan 30 '13 at 21:40

Something that doesn't break down fast -- like pine needles/leaves -- sounds like a great candidate to use as mulch. Since they break down slowly and will slightly lower the soil pH, so you might want to use them around perennial, acid-loving plants like blueberries or azalea-family shrubs (as opposed to using them around annual, neutral-pH plants like in your vegetable garden). The needles in the bottom layer will break down over a couple of years, so you can keep adding fresh mulch to the top layer.

  • Just to confirm — Pine needles are actually quite commonly used as mulch in certain parts of the country. – Robert Cartaino Jan 30 '13 at 17:14
  • Which country? I'm in the US, OP is in Australia. Here, pine needles are indeed a common mulch material. – bstpierre Jan 30 '13 at 17:29
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    The US, but I would note that chemicals some varieties of pine needles can actually inhibit the growth of other plants underneath it; something you may want, but not always. The Australian variety, for example — nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/caeq1.htm. – Robert Cartaino Jan 30 '13 at 17:36
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    Yeah, some pine trees are actually allelopathic. So you want to be careful where you use them for mulch. That said, blueberries seem to love certain varieties of pine needle/bark/wood mulch. – Daniel Bingham Jan 30 '13 at 23:54
  • One thing I have found about allelopathy about evergreens is that the brown needs seem to suck the nitrogen out of the soil and decay very slowly (I am guessing a very high C:N ratio). This seems to be one of the big mechanisms of allelopathy at least as I have seen it. Of course my experience is only with a few specific varieties (Pondarosa pine, sitka spruce, etc), but the mechanism is quite obvious. – Chris Travers Apr 25 '13 at 14:40

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