Questions about Pine Tree


Bunge Pine

How Fast Do Pine Trees Grow?    

Pine trees are huge tall trees that can grow up to the height of 100 – 110 feet. The Monterey pine, which is the fastest-growing pine, grows 160 feet tall. Pine trees as a family have inhabited earth for a long time. Some trees are 4600 years old since they live a long life.

Monterey Pine

There are about 100 species of pine trees. And the growth rate of the pine tree depends on the species. There are slow-growing species, medium growing species, and the fast-growing species.

The slow-growing species grow under a foot in one year. As against this, the medium growing pine can grow anywhere between one to two feet in a year. The fast-growing pines go beyond 2 – 3 feet per year.

Even the same Pine tree may have different growth rates in its life span. In the first five years, the Italian Stone Pine grows to about 15 feet. That is 3 feet per year, and then the growth rate comes.

Italian Stone Pine

So, if you are planting pine for beauty and protection of your property, you should go in for the fast-growing varieties.

However, the slow-growing pines yield the best timber. So, for timber plantation, one should go for slow-growing pines. The slow growth of the pine avails enough time for the wood to assimilate and grow healthy.

What are the factors that affect pine tree growth?

The factors that affect the pine trees are

  • Sunlight

Pine trees need good exposure to the Sun. More the sunlight better is the growth of the pine trees. However, too much sunlight may burn off the planted seeds or the small sapling. So it is essential to protect the young plant from strong sunlight for some time.

  • Soil pH value

Pine trees flourish well in slightly acidic soil. The pH value recommended for the proper growth of pine is 6.5 to 6.8.  Too acidic or alkaline soil does not suit the pine trees well.

  • Soil drainage:

Stagnated water rots the roots of the pine. Avoid overwatering of pine trees and provide good drainage for the extra water to flow away.

  • Soil nutrients

Apart from the pH of the soil, the macronutrients, influence the growth. The three macronutrients that affect the growth of pine are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and potassium. The ground should have these nutritional components in appropriate proportions.

  • Pest and disease.

Proper and adequate protection from the pest and disease helps the tree grow well and healthy.

How do I make a pine tree grow fast?

One can make the pine tree grow faster by ensuring proper conditions and nutrition to the plant.              

Plant your pine tree in a location that has plenty of sunlight. Ensure that the soil drainage is good, and water does not stagnate. Planting on slopes will be a good idea if your property has slopes. When watering the pines, water them with the right quantity of water and help the water seep down in the ground. If the soil has a high concentration of clay, it will retain water for a long time. Add some sand and silt to the clay to make the soil porous. Since it enables proper breathing of the roots

The frequency of water the pine tree should be less, but the quantity should be more per watering. Maintaining this frequency makes the roots of the tree go down. When shallow watered, the roots will remain near the surface to absorb the water. And the tree will not be able to absorb the necessary nutrition from the soil. Shallow roots will not be able to hold the tree well, and it will neither be strong nor healthy. Motivate the taproots of your tree to go down and firm by deep watering.

Check the pH of the soil. The acceptable pH value for the proper growth of pine is 6.5 to 6.8. If the pH value goes below 6.5, it means the soil is very acidic. In such cases, resort to the surface application of dolomitic lime to reduce the acidity. If the soil is alkaline, indicated by a pH value greater than 7, then surface treatment with garden Sulphur will bring down the pH value within the required range.

If you can afford commercial testing of the soil, get it checked for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content. Also, get the ground checked with the local horticulture/agriculture department. It should have optimum levels of macronutrients in the soil. If the value is less than desired, enrich the soil with necessary nutrients.

Special pine fertilizer (manufactured especially for pines) is an excellent option that increases the nutritional value of the soil.

Check your pine tree regularly for signs of decay or disease. Any unusual sign or symptom calls quick action, and if any pest or disease is suspected, corrective actions advised immediately.

How long can pine trees live?       

The pine trees are known to be alive for thousands of years. A Bristlecone tree discovered in the white mountains of New Hampshire has a confirmed age of over 5000 years. The Bristlecone pine or Pinus aristate is the longest living variety among the pine. There are lots of such Bristlecone pine trees dating to more than 4000 -4500 years.

Bristlecone pine

But not all varieties of pine trees have such a long life. Besides, the tallest range of Pine, Sugar Pine, attains the height of 200 ft and live for around 500 years. Most of the varieties of Pine trees live over 100 years. The Virginia pines, Table Mountain pines, shortleaf pine, and white pines live anywhere between 100 to 200 years.

If we leave aside the pine varieties that live for thousands of years, on an average, the pine tree has a life of 50 years on the minimum and maximum of 450 years. The majority of the species would fall in this lifespan. Very few varieties of pine trees live less than 100 years.  

The lifespan of some of the most popular pine tree varieties are:

  • Eastern white pine: Generally found in eastern North America and Kentucky. In the pristine native surroundings, they could live for about 200 years. But in the Urban setting, their life span is about 100 years.
  • Golden Pine tree: These are relatively short pines, reaching a height of 30 ft maximum, found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Golden Pine is a slow-growing tree and has a lifespan of 60 -90 years.
  • Italian Pine tree: These Pine trees mostly grow in western America and the Mediterranean, have a comparatively short life, and could live from 50 -150 years.
  • Norfolk Island Pine tree: This tree can live up to 150 years and is a native of Norfolk Island.

What is the best time to plant pine trees?

Pine trees thrive well in the temperature range between -10 degrees F and + 90 degrees F. Hence, zones 3 to 8 are most suitable to plant and grow pine trees. However, the mature and robust pine tree can withstand a little more cold and hot conditions.

So, the average temperature time of late summer to early fall is the most suitable time to plant the pine tree. In terms of moths, late August, September, and October would be ideal for plantation of new pine trees. During these months, the temperature and the moisture content of the soil remain more or less constant. That helps the pine tree to stabilize and get a good foothold.            

In these months, it is not too hot and neither too dry. Moreover, the Pine tree uses the fall time to grow and strengthen the roots. For thriving plantation of pine trees, or for that matter any tree, the roots must fix firmly in the ground.

A firm and heathy root ensures a healthy pine tree in the coming years.

What is the spacing for growing pine trees?

The pine tree needs good sunlight for growth. As these trees grow up, they develop a vast canopy. The roots of the pine tree need enough space to grow and spread.

Hence it is imperative to space the pine tree appropriately. Too spread out spacing will leave yawning gaps, which will not look good. Also, very closely spaced trees will hinder proper growth.

The objective of planting the pine tree is also a critical consideration. Generally, the pine tree is planted for the beautification of the landscape, or to break wind. These trees also get planted for the commercial timber it yields.

With more than 100 varieties of Pine trees, they have different heights and spreads. The variation is from 30 ft of elevation to about 200 feet for the tallest types.

All these factors need consideration while deciding the spacing between the pine trees. Since the conditions are varied, it is very challenging to define one rule or spacing distance between the trees.

But as a matter of approximation, keep 6 – 8 feet distance between two pine trees, is sufficient. This distance should not be closer than 6 feet in any condition. Initially, it will give a feeling of being very widely placed, but as the trees grow, the vast gaps get filled up. However, the distance between the trees can increase for specific reasons. Keep a distance of at least 8 – 10 feet between the rows, if you plan to have multiple rows.

If you plan to plant pine with a gap of 6 feet between them and rows spaced about 9 feet, you will end up planting about 1000 trees in an acre—an Acre of land measures to 43, 560 square feet.

These figures will help you plan your layout and budget for the plantation of the pine trees.

What should be done when Pine needles turn brown?   

Brown pine needle

The Pine tree is an evergreen tree. But that does not mean that the needles of the pines will never fall, and they last forever on the trees. Evergreen tree means, all the leaves or needles will not dry and fall at the same time. However, every year throughout the year, the needle which has grown old will turn yellow or brown and wither away. So, if you see some needle turning brown usually, that is perfectly normal.

However, if the needles are turning brown because of some other reasons, it is not a good sign. It generally means the tree is unwell, or the conditions around the tree are not amicable for the healthy growth of the tree.

Some of the common reasons for the needles to turn brown and the remedial actions are:

Extreme drought

Ideally, the pine tree survives well in water-deficient conditions. However, in times of extreme drought or severely dry year, the needles do not receive sufficient nutrition and water. So, the needles dry out and turn brown and ultimately wither.

Remedy:

 It is essential to start watering the pines on the earliest signs of dryness. But remember to water the pine deep. Re-water the pine only when the topsoil feels dry to touch. Excessive watering is also detrimental to the pine.

Heavy rains or excessive watering

The pine tree root system is intolerant to excessive water. The roots just rot away in standing water. If the roots rot and die, there is no way to nurture the needle and other parts of the tree. These will wilt and dry off due to undernutrition.

Remedy:

Never overwater the pine. Also, regularly check to ensure that the soil drainage is good. Scan nearby areas to check for pits and holes filled with water. And if there is one, dry it out and fill with mud/sand. Cut off the brown needles.

Sodium chloride and other de-icing sprays

It is a general practice to spray common salt solution or other de-icing solutions on the road, to prevent a build-up of snow on roads. If the runoff of these sprays reaches the pine trees, it will turn the needles on that side of the tree brown. Excessive salt kills the needles. 

So when needles on one side of the tree turn brown, and it has a road there, be assured that the salt has spoilt the needle.

Remedy.

If possible, prevent the spray of any common salt or de-icing agent near the pine trees. If that is impossible to do, think of ways and means to drain off the runoff in some other direction far away from the pine tree.

Girdling

Girdling is restricting the space requirement. It results from carelessness while planting the pine tree. The pit dugout for the roots turns out to be too narrow and shallow. So the roots are all cramped up in a small space, and they either die out or unable to work at their full efficiency. The result is the browning of the needles, because of lack of nutrition

Remedy

The hole dug must be big enough for the roots to accommodate conveniently.

Winter Burn

During the winters, the pines trees get covered with snow. But only up to a certain height, which is known as the snowline of the tree. During winters, the pine tree submerges under snow up to the snowline height. The rest of the tree above the snowline remains exposed. The exposed needles turn brown because of the winter burn. A brown crown pine is the sign of a winter burn.

Remedy.

Since it is a natural process, there is no way to stop it. But once the winter burn has done the damage, in the coming good weather, the dead branches from the top get trimmed (carefully maintaining the conical shape of the tree). In the following spring, the application and use of suitable fertilizer promote new growth of branches and needles in place of the dead ones. Some experts feel it is better to trim off the dead branches after applying the fertilizer and nutrients to the pine tree.

Dothistroma Needle Blight

This a fungal attack whose symptoms appear around March/April. It affects any type of needle, new and old.

Remedy:

A spray of copper-based fungicide helps control the disease. Further, pruning away the infected branches and needle prevents large scale spread in the affected tree and nearby trees.

Brown spot Needle Blight

It is also is a fungal infection that turns the needle brown and kills them ultimately. The fungus infects the tree in August -September. Needles succumb to the attack by turning brown and wither away.

Remedy:

The best way to treat and eradicate this type of fungal attack is by spraying a suitable fungicide, as suggested by an expert.

Bark Beetles

These pests, drill into the trunk of pine trees to lay eggs. And the pine tree trunk is home to quite a few Bark Beetle. But that is not the problem. However, excessive infiltration of the trunk with these Bark beetles is not a good sign. It attracts worms that get inside these holes and devour the pine tree internally. There could be sawdust-like material or liquid oozing out of these holes. In such a situation, the pine tree gets sick, and the needles turn brown to die off eventually. The whole tree dries out and falls away.

Remedy:

It is tough to judge the Bark Beetle attack until it becomes too late. So as soon as you see the needle get brown, carefully scrutinize the trunk to check for these Beetles and the hole. Even in doubt, you should immediately spray this tree and the nearby tree with appropriate pesticide, under the advice of an expert.

In case the expert feels it is too late to save the tree, it is prudent to bring down this tree and keep safe the nearby ones. It will also prevent the accidental fall of the branches or the whole tree from leading to severe consequences.

How often can you prune pine trees?

The pine trees generally do not need any pruning. They typically grow in a shapely manner. When the pine tree grows in wide-open areas, there is never a reason to prune it, unless it is damaged or diseased.

If some of the branches are broken or damaged, it is better to prune them right away. Branches need pruning from the collar. That is the point where the branches join the main trunk.

If any of the branches are diseased or infected with pest again, it requires pruning immediately.

When the pine trees grow close enough, the branches may rub with each other, because of the winds. This rubbing may damage the bark of the tree and invite pests and other diseases. Hence, this is also one of the reasons to prune the tree.

At times, the pine tree requires pruning for aesthetic reasons, which is very rare. Since most of the reason for pruning is SOS, it becomes difficult to talk about the frequency.

The pine tree can be pruned any number of times in a year.

If possible, avoid pruning the tree during late summer in the fall. The cut portion of the tree will not be able to heal itself before the winter sets. That may lead to a complicated situation for the tree. The best time to prune the pine tree is from late winter to early spring. It facilitates quick and complete healing of the cut portion of the tree.

Do pine needles decompose?      

Yes, the dead pine needles do decompose, and they are used to make compost fertilizers. But then they can form only 10 % of the total compost, because of their slow decomposing properties. You can mix other decomposing material to make the compost. It takes about four months for the pine needles to decompose completely. It is the acidic nature of the pine needle, which makes it difficult for the microorganisms to break it down. And it is precisely the reason that some experts feel compost containing pine needle is not good.

Since it decomposes that slow, many people feel, it does not decompose at all.

What is the best way to clean up pine needles?

Because of its spiky shape and the sap, the pine needles are troublesome to clean up. Since the pine is a huge tree and being evergreen variety, it drops needles daily. So, there are too many needles scattered around.

If the pine tree is in the open and wild, there is no need to clean up the needles. But if you have it in the vicinity of your house, it will call for cleaning.

The needle from the lawn and grass is easy to collect and pick with a rake. The damage to the soil is minimum, and all the needles can be huddled into one corner and packed into a bag.

Rubber or nylon-bristled broom is best to sweep and collect the pines from patios, walkways, and sit-outs.

Use the skimming net to clean the swimming pools and ponds. Special long-handled combs are available to clean it, and also to clean the rooftops and difficult to reach areas.

Inside the house, you can use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of all pine needles. However, one should use the vacuum cleaner carefully to avoid any damage to it.

The best of all is to physically pick up all the needles using the rake/broom, though it could be tiring and backbreaking.

Lindsey Glenn

I've been learning about gardening since 2015, helping friends and family to grow their trees. I am passionate about trees and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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