Christmas came very early

Some problems we seem to solve relatively quickly, once we observe them, research some solutions and usually put in a bit of effort. But some challenges, on the other hand, like kikuyu and couch grass just seem to drag on and on and on and we don’t seem to ever get them solved in real time. The acidity of our berries fall into this same category. So I was hyper-excited when Christmas came super-early this year. But then, is it really a solution?

It must be for about 5 years now that we are working at it to lower the acidity of our berry beds, especially the blue berries. I have tried sulphur – both liquid and granules, but with very little effect – they have not dropped more than a single pH unit over the years. I know the granules take years to dissolve, but it has been years already! I have also tried pine bark mulch, and I can assure you that it doesn’t make it any change to the pH at all, although it has been useful to keep the soil more moist around the berries. I heard somewhere that pine needles are the real deal to lower pH, so without researching it any further I was constantly on the lookout for a large clump of pine trees where I could pick up enough needles to mulch all our berries.

Then one day, as I was driving back from a very pleasant surf at Bells, planning my planting and compost processing schedule for the day, there along the road quite close to us were heaps and heaps of freshly sawed off pine branches lying all along a fence. I don’t know the people from a bar of soap, but they always have plants and free range eggs for sale at their farm gate. Luckily it was a spur of the moment thing, so I didn’t even have time to consider my own hyper-introvert and super-shyness challenges – I just spun the xTrail around, charged in and rang the doorbell. Fortunately the lady with the curlers in her hair (yes genuinely, it still happens!) was super-friendly and said I was welcome to load as much as I could before the mulch truck came. I switched into hyper-active mode, rushed to get the trailer and loaded and unloaded 3 trailer loads full of pine branches before you could even blink. In fact I only left the mulch truck a few cedar branches…

Pine - road

Heaps and heaps of freshly cut pine branches

Triple treasure

What an input of potential energy! Not only were there heaps and heaps of pine needles for all the berry beds, most of whom need a top-up mulching anyway, but also a lot of pretty straight logs which I can use for terracing and edging.

For the children it was an absolute treasure trove – they jumped in boots and all to help process the pine branches. They cut off the needles, collected the smaller sticks and grabbed as many pine cones as they could twist off – later they even resorted to the rubber mallet to get the cones off. I just love how their creative energies were working – scheming about all the projects and art pieces they could do with the pine cones and the sticks.


Meanwhile, we were bathed in the healthy aroma of fresh pine. I just love working with fresh wood like pine or eucalyptus – it’s almost as if you feel yourself getting healthier just breathing in the mists while you’re working.

As dusk was setting we had all the blue berries mulched.

Various berry beds mulched

We also had a small pile of landscaping logs and a trailer full of cones and sticks for either the children’s projects or for the mulcher. Now the project continues as we mulch the raspberries, blackberries and jostaberries. The remainder of the pine needles go towards mulching the roses.

Tea tree terraces using the pine branches


As I was finishing up the blue berry beds, something inside me just questioned me: what if pines also had an allopathic effect, like Eucalyptus? Why is it that very little rows under pine trees? I never double-checked, especially not about fresh green pine needles. I may just be on a wild mission killing off all our precious blueberry bushes!

Fortunately I found no evidence of the kind. In fact, some of the articles noted that green pine needles are slightly more acidic than old brown needles, but only slightly. However, I stumbled onto quite a number of articles and comments on forums which stated that pine needles do nothing to lower the pH, but that it is a good mulch none the less.

Anyway, I’ve taken the pH measurements of the beds and I will track my own experiment whether it makes any difference.

Gift horse

There’s a saying that you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so I guess I’m not going to have my spirits dampened and rather focus on the positive aspects. We have a massive pile of potential energy to work with and I will rather ride on the fresh aroma together with the children’s joy and excitement to get the whole heap processed and to have all the berry and rose beds freshly mulched. As a side project I gained some useful timber to complete the terracing project where I have recently ran out of old timber. I also have some straight logs for borders in Dreamland. And who knows what the children are going to do with all their loot – I can see a few fun projects coming up.

Pine - spoils

An assortment of pine loot



About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

2 Comments on Christmas came very early

  1. Ground score! Those look like Monterey pine; although I know pines are so hard to distinguish.

  2. And a beautiful haul of cones, I can see why the kids got excited.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Light a fire for mother’s day – Our pursuit of real living

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: