Foraging for the Garden (Pine Needles)

There are some who forage outside of their garden, and there are some who forage for their garden. I fit into both categories. I love frugal living, and I love being able to use the resources freely available to us, to boost our garden.

A pine tree-lined avenue.

So while driving along a local road this weekend, I yelled out with excitement for my husband to stop the car. He is good like that, 30-odd years of living with me has taught him to be patient, and to trust there is some method to my madness! I pointed to all the pine needles on the side of the road. They would be perfect for suppressing weeds around our blueberries. Luckily, we always keep a big red bin and plastic bag for such collections.

Collecting pine needles.

Normally we would hesitate to collect these resources along a busy roadside because of all the car fumes, and near a kiwifruit shelter belt because of all the agricultural sprays. However, this was a perfect spot as it is a very quiet road with not many cars, and the fact that it was outside of the spray zone, we were happy to take the chance. The needles were so deep, that we could just scrape off the top layer, leaving a deep layer behind. Given that we have also recently had a huge wash of heavy rainfall, we reckoned that any possible spray residue might have been washed down through the layers to the bottom.

A perfect acidic carpet for blueberries

Pine needles are quite acidic, and usually not much grows where there is a fallout of pine needles. Now blueberries…they just love an acidic soil. 4.5 to 5.5 to be exact. Not for them the alkaline root feeding system. So pine needles and blueberries fit together like…um, ice-cream and chocolate sauce!

The blueberries tucked snuggly in their new bed.

Pine needle mulch is a great blueberry treat! As the needles break down slowly, they will feed nutrients to the acid-loving blueberry plants. Mulching with them is the organic way to lower the pH of the soil. So we should see an increase in fruit production come spring/summer at the end of this year.

Pine needles will suppress any weed growth.

Now all we need do, is wait for nature to work it’s magic. And maybe we can change that adage of ice-cream and chocolate sauce, and create a new idea of ice-cream fitting perfectly well with blueberry sauce!

If you want to grow your own blueberries, just remember you will need to net them from the birds. And start foraging for pine needles. They can be grown in big pots if you are short of garden space. Maybe you could make your own blueberry sauce to go with your ice-cream! Yum!

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