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[5] Best Ways to Pick up Pine Needles from Grass and Rocks

If you have pine trees in your backyard, you must be captivated by the tiresome and exhausting chore of picking up overly shedding pine needles all around your backyard. If you are looking for the best way to pick them up, you are in luck. Read through this article and you will not only get to know the best and most efficient ways of picking up pine needles from your backyard but you will also get the answers to other most frequently asked questions regarding pine foliage such as

  • How to pick up pine needles?
  • Why do you need to pick up pine needles? 
  • What are the dangers of pine straws if left on the grass?
  • What are the uses of pine needles? 
  • How to regrow grass under pine foliage?
best way to pick up pine needles


Pine needles can wreak havoc in your garden if left unattended. This is the reason you should pick them up as early as possible. There are different ways to pick them up. Choosing the best way depends mainly on the area where they are spread. 

If the straws are not high in number and not spread in a larger area, a specialized garden rake is only what you need. 

But if they have taken over your backyard, you can use a strong leaf blower to blow them all into a large pile. Then use a specialized garden rake to pick them up and collect them in a bag. A leaf blower is helpful in picking up these pesky needles from rocks.

A specialized garden sweeper can also sweep all the needles into a container. The Garden sweeper picks them up even from the bottom of the grass through its hard brush. This method is good if you have plain and leveled terrain

Shop vacuums can also be used to vacuum all of them even from tight places like drains and gutters where the garden sweeper or mowers cannot reach. 

Power washing is another option that not only removes these irksome needles but also washes away all the sticky sap they exude, making your garden look new again. Power washing is helpful if your patios or pavements have been overtaken

Pine trees

According to the American Conifer Society, pines belong to the genus Pinus in the family Pinaceae. Pines are mostly indigenous to the northern hemisphere. They are grown in temperate, warm, dry, and subtropical regions. Pine trees are widely used as timber around the world due to their softness.

sun shining through pine trees while pine needles are scattered on the ground

Pine trees are evergreen. These disease and insect-resistant trees tend to live long typically gaining ages of around 100 to 1000 years. They can retain their leaves and needles almost throughout the year. But this doesn’t mean they don’t shed. They do shed. And some species shed tremendously. 

They gain a height of around 80m with an average height of 45m. Most pine trees have a thick and scaly bark while some species have delicate, flaky barks. 

Pine trees have pine needles tied in clusters that make a dense canopy on the top of the tree. This canopy prevents sunlight and rainwater from reaching the base. 

Having these Pinaceae trees in your backyard is a pleasant addition. They look beautiful and provide nice shade in the area. They help preserve the soil from erosion. They provide a pleasant and refreshing aroma as well. 

Living with these trees can be a bit messy over time. Pine trees, although called evergreen trees, shed a lot. Especially during spring, when the tree is putting up new growth, the older cones and needles tend to shed more. And if you show negligence towards picking them up, they will soon take over and overwhelm your garden and smother grass and other plants. Your best bet is to pick pine shedding up as soon as possible. 

Picking up pine needles can become a nightmare if you don’t utilize the proper methods and tools for this chore. Yes, you can gather pine foliage with your bare hands or by using your standard rake or broom. But these methods will take a lifetime to gather them.

Also collecting them by hand might scratch your hands as these peeving needles are dry and have pointed tips. Standard rakes have tiny and loose tines that cannot hold them properly. A standard lawn mower is also not able to clean them up as they are hard. 

You need the best tools and machines to pick up pine needles and cones. 

Best Ways To Pick Up Pine Needles

There are many ways to pick up pine needles. The best way depends on factors like

  • The number of needles you are dealing with,
  • How long they have been on the ground or plants,
  • The topography of your backyard or garden.

Specialized Garden Rake

Standard, traditional rakes are ineffective for picking up pine needles from your garden. Traditional rakes have tiny tines that are loosely placed. They give plenty of room for them to escape. 

Specialized garden rakes are best suited for picking up pine needles from your lawn. These rakes have large and closely placed fan-shaped tines with long handles. Picking up pine straws with this type of specialized garden rake is not only a fun task but it is also an inexpensive one. 

No matter which tool you use, you will eventually have to use a garden rake to collect all the gathered needles onto a sheet or tarp. A rake is the only option to collect them in the end. 

Leaf Blower

Pine needles are very thin and have pointy tips, thus the name needles. This is the reason they can go into tight places, drains, or around rocks where garden rakes or mowers might not reach. And also picking them up with bare hands from places like around closely placed plants is also not a good idea. 

Using a strong leaf blower is a perfect way to pick up pine needles from places like rocks, drains, and around the roots of other plants. 

You will need a strong leaf blower for this purpose since these needles are heavier than leaves. With a leaf blower, you can blow all of them toward a collecting tarp or net. Once blown into large piles, use a specialized rake to gather all of them on a tarp or directly into a collecting bag and dispose of them properly. 

Specialized Lawn Sweeper

Sweeping pine needles with specialized lawn sweepers is another fastest way to remove them from your garden without any hassle. Lawn sweepers are different from traditional sweepers used for indoor sweeping and cleaning. They come with a rotating hard bristle brush that agitates the grass and picks all the fallen leaves, needles, cones, and all other debris even from deep down.

Lawn sweepers are a much better and more efficient tool for picking up pine needles as compared to traditional lawnmowers that are unable to mow them. 

Lawn sweepers come in two variants:

  • Push sweeper 

There are two types of push sweepers. One is a manually operated push sweeper. This type of sweeper is pushed manually by the user. 

The second type is a powered push sweeper. This type is powered by a motor. 

  • Tow-behind

A tow-behind lawn sweeper is attached to a traditional lawnmower or a tractor. 

Lawn sweepers come with a container. This container collects all the debris that you can dispose of easily. 

Shop Vacuum

Vacuuming is another efficient and effective way to get rid of pine needles. Vacuums designed specifically for outdoor use or shop vacs can give you the ease of vacuuming and simultaneously collecting all the heavy debris directly into a bag instead of first blowing all of them on a tarp and then collecting them into a bag. This article will guide you in buying a vacuum cleaner

Shop vacuums are powerful, professional vacuums that can suck up many things like liquid spills, water, and other small and heavy debris. While using shop vacs to pick up pine straws, you will also end up picking up most of the other debris as well. Another benefit of using vacuums is you can pick up pine straws even from tight places like drains, gutters, crevices, etc. 

You should be careful while using the vacuum for this purpose. Sucking up pine cones might harm some vacuums. 

Power Washing

Power washing is another one of the best ways to get rid of pine needles. Although it might be considered a bit of an aggressive method, it will make your garden look new and fresh. Especially on the patio or around stonework and pavements, power washing is a better choice for getting rid of pine residues and cleaning up the area. 

Power washing is also helpful in removing the sticky sap that drains from pine cones and needles which is actually harmful to grass and nearby plants. 

Power washing should be done with care as it could destroy nearby plants. It is better to keep the water pressure minimal to avoid any damage. 

Why do you need to pick up pine needles?

Pine needles are harmful for many reasons. They are heavier than leaves. So, they don’t get blown away by the wind. This is why they keep sitting in one place if not removed. 

Pine Needles Absorb Moisture

Pine needles take a long time to decompose. And if they keep sitting in one place, they will suck all the moisture from the soil. This will let other plants and trees starved. 

Pine Needles Can Kill Grass and Plants

Pine foliage and cones exude gluey fluid that makes the soil acidic. Although this sap helps prevent weeds and other unwanted herbs from growing in your garden, it will also make the soil inhabitable for grass and nearby plants. Pine needles would kill other plants and grass if left on them for a longer time period. 

The acidic property of pine straw and the blockage of sunlight from the pine tree itself make conditions very harsh for grass to regrow once it is destroyed. To prevent this plague, cleaning your garden becomes more important. 

Pine Needles Are A Fire Hazard

Fallen pine needles are dry. This is the main reason they are a fire hazard. They become more fire-prone during dry weather and summer. If you live in a wildfire-prone area, you should be more active to remove this foliage more often.

Pine Needles Can Injure Pets And Kids

Having your kids and pets playing in your backyard which is covered with pine foliage is a recipe for disaster. The pine needles not only will injure the feet but will cause health issues if a pet or a kid intakes the acidic sap they exude. 

Important Uses Of Pine Needles

Once you have collected all the pine needles from your backyard, you might be wondering what to do with them. Are they good for anything?

Don’t throw these collected pine needles away in the garbage bin. As harmful as they are when allowed to stay on your grass and plants, they are as effective and useful once picked up.

Use In Fireplace

Dried pine needles are a good source of fire in your fireplace during winter. They are great fire starters. Only dried ones should be used for fire because fresh pine needles contain sticky sap that will turn into creosote.

Use As Mulch

Pine needles can be used as mulch for your garden or pavements. They don’t decompose quickly so you don’t have to replace them that often. 

Make Decorative Items

Pine needles are used to make decorative items and ornaments like trays, toys, baskets, etc. Make some and place them in your living area. They will surely compliment your house interior. 

Make Pine Tea

There are some medicinal uses for Pine needles as well. They can be used to make pine tea. This tea contains vitamin C which is an immune system booster that benefits health. 

Use As Scent

Pine needles have a sweet refreshing scent. Boiling them will create a pleasant aroma in your house. 

Use In Compost Bin

If you are a gardener and you make organic compost for your plants, you must have a compost bin in your backyard. Throw all the collected pine foliage into the compost bin. These will provide a rich source of carbon to your organic compost that will balance the nitrogen-rich materials in the compost bin. 

How To Regrow Grass Under Pine Needles?

Pine foliage is acidic. The sticky fluid that these pine needles and cones bleed smothers the ground underneath if left uncleaned for a longer time. They kill the grass and nearby plants. 

If you have left them for long enough on your ground that they have killed all the grass, don’t worry! I have the solution for growing the grass back after the pine needles’ havoc. 

  • You have to pick up all the pine foliage through any of the methods described above.
  • It is better to power wash as well. This will also get rid of all of the sticky sap.
  • Once you have gotten rid of all of the pine residues, get some lime dust and pour it on the ground. Lime, also known as calcium carbonate, neutralizes the acidity caused by the dead pine needles. Just spreading the lime dust once a season will balance the pH of the soil and grass will grow back.

Happy gardening!