Keep Those Pinecones

If you’ve got a plethora of pine cones littering your yard, don’t despair—they can actually be useful! Here are a few good ideas on how to incorporate them into your garden:

• Add them to your compost pile—they are a valuable source of carbon (or ‘browns’). They will take a while to break down, so it may be best to put them in a pile you don’t want to use for a while (you can run over them with a lawn mower to break them down quicker). Of note: it is apparently a myth that composted pine cones make your soil more acidic. They are acidic when fresh and your compost will be more acidic in the short term. The acidity wanes considerably once the pine cones are composted.

• Use pine cones as mulch. They do a superb job at moisture retention and weed suppression and they are naturally resistant to mold and fungus—and they are attractive. Since they have not broken down, they will be acidic and best used around acid-loving plants like blueberries or rhodos/azaleas. Note that pine cones are flammable so don’t use them close to your house, fire pit or BBQ.

• Use pine cones as container fillers. If you have large planters that you don’t want to fill entirely with dirt, fill halfway with pine cones to both make the pot lighter and provide excellent drainage.

• Slow to break-down pine cones can be sprinkled on muddy paths to create a barrier between your feet and the muddy soil.

• Make a ladybug hotel. Wrap up a bunch of pine cones in some netting and place it in a sheltered spot in the garden (protect from heavy rain). Ladybugs look for safe spaces to lay eggs or hibernate over winter and often use dead stems or old wood. They start looking for suitable sites in late autumn when temperatures drop and food supply decreases—try to get your hotel ready by then!

So next time you have the rake or blower out and are making pine cone piles, consider them a resource, rather than a nuisance!