Should I rake all the pine needles off my backyard right now?

Asked January 12, 2019, 10:57 AM EST

Hello! I am a recent homeowner in Saint Louis park and in my backyard is a beautiful, what I think is a red pine. The red pine is dropping a ton of needles in the backyard, and the previous owner said I better stay on top of racking if I don’t want my grass to die. Can I rake up all the pine needles now in the winter since there is no snow or is that bad for the grass? Should I wait until spring? Also - is it normal for this pine tree to shed so many needles like that? There is a pretty thick coat of pine needles on the yard. I hope the tree is okay. It is a really pretty tree! Thanks for the help!! Graham

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

It is normal for pine trees to shed their needles, within reason. As needles age, they become less efficient for the tree and the tree will drop them. Most of these come from the more inner part of the branches. If you start seeing brown needles or noticing loss off needles at the branch tips, where the newest growth can be found, that's when you should be concerned. That kind of loss is typically caused by an insect or disease.

As for raking them up, it wouldn't harm anything to rake them up now. I would be cautious when the ground starts to thaw, you don't want to inadvertently rip up new grass growth. Only rake up what's on the lawn. You can leave the needles under the tree, the needles will breakdown and provide nutrients for the tree.