Pine trees are an ancient type of tree. They produce acidic pine needles, and also cast deep shade. You can garden very successfully near pine trees, but it does require a bit of knowledge to work with these trees and the impact they have on the soil. Let’s explore what vegetables grow well near pine trees and co-exist peacefully without one outgrowing the other.
Is it possible to grow vegetables near pine trees or its impossible? Yes, it is possible to grow vegetables near pine trees as long as you grow the right vegetables that do well around pine trees. A significant percentage of the world’s best food-producing land actually used to be covered with pine trees!
A Brief Look at What Pine Trees Do To The Soil
There are many species of pine trees but they all have pine needles for leaves. Pine needles fall and form a thick mulch under the pine trees. They also drop pine cones as the trees get bigger – these are excellent for the soil.
Pine needles are acidic when they fall, but rapidly just form a compost layer that has little impact on soil pH. Pine needle mulch is an incredibly rich source of all sorts of good nutrients – however, I have found that if you add too much it causes nutrient lock-out issues in your soil.
Pine trees are big – with time they can get to be huge, and block out the sun! Sunlight is essential for photosynthesis, and if you want vegetables to grow, they do need to be able to photosynthesize. You cannot grow vegetables in a forest – you do need a space that is cleared!
Why Grow Vegetables Near Pine Trees?
A few benefits that you may derive from growing vegetables near pine trees are:
- Pine trees are very hardy trees and provide a wind break.
- Pine trees are resistant to pests and disease.
- The soil around pine trees is well-drained – the trees themselves keep the soil dry
- Pine tree rows can provide some shade in hot environments.
- Pine trees are good for attracting birds.
- Pine trees are great for attracting butterflies.
- Resin from pine trees helps keep insects away from pine trees.
What Vegetables Grow Well Near Pine Trees?
Now that we know why it’s possible to grow plants near pine trees, let’s see what vegetables grow well near pine trees.
In the list of vegetables that grow well near pine trees, there are many that we eat every day. That is a great thing! The list includes:
Carrots can grow near pine trees because they like sandy soil and are tolerant of some shade. Carrots will often do quite well in semi-depleted soil. This is not a hard and fast rule, but if there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil you can end up with giant green plants with no carrots under them. One of my carrot patches is actually near a pine tree and I regularly mulch the carrots with pine needles and have found they do very well.
Cucumbers need lots of sunlight. I have grown these near small pine trees using the trees as a trellis. It looks quite funny when you have lots of cucumbers hanging from your pine tree and it is covered in cucumber leaves! Cucumbers are easy to grow and have delicious flowers.
Lettuce is a weed that tastes good! You can grow this nearly anywhere, and it definitely grows in the soil near pine trees! I have grown my fair share over the years under such conditions.
Tomatoes are a very variable plant. There are many different cultivars. I have had cherry tomatoes and little wonder tomatoes that have run up pine trees over the years. Most of these tomatoes end up being bird food as they are often out of human reach, but the plants do thrive. You will need to ensure they get water, as the pine tree is thirsty.
Peppers will do well near pine trees. My grandfather had a big row of pine trees in his garden on the banks of Lake Ontario in Canada and I remember how well they did in the well-drained soil near these big trees. Naturally, you do need to exercise a small amount of common sense – planting the peppers in a place where they are in complete shade will not work – make sure they get a few hours of direct sunlight, and you will get a crop.
If your broccoli is not shaded by the pine trees it will do fine. I have grown broccoli near pine trees and had very decent crops. The same can be said for cauliflower in fact.
Beets need lots of sunshine, so they won’t grow on the shady side of pine trees. If you plant them on the sunny side of a row of pine trees they thrive. Beets contain some sort of magic in them that makes you feel healthy, so they should be grown! The worst that can happen is if they are too shaded you will end up with dwarf beets – these make great snacks.
Celery is one of my favorite plants. I normally let five or six plants go to seed, and then the next year the seedlings come up like a lawn where this happened. I have actually seen celery seeds grow in the bark of a pine tree about a foot above the ground!!
Cauliflower grows well near pine trees because it likes cooler temperatures and can tolerate drier conditions than other vegetables. It also doesn’t need as much sunlight as other vegetables, so it will grow even if your house gets only five hours of direct sunlight each day.
A cauliflower I grew. This is not a very big one, but you can actually see the pine mulch below it.
10. Green Beans
Green beans are so diverse in the number of cultivars that you can get them to do nearly anything. I believe in just buying as many different types and letting them cross over the years. They tend to adapt to your local garden conditions. My garden is quite shaded, and part of that shade is due to pine trees and the rest due to oaks.
Over the years I collect beans wherever I go in the world and just plant them in my garden. The whole localized bean experiment has reached a point now where each year the beans get more productive, more resistant to disease, and more adapted to the shaded garden I have.
These are our beans. They are from all over the world, with some special beans gifted to me by Dr. Nyiko Mabasa, who got them from her Grandmother. Ancient African heirloom beans that are GMO-free!
Lettuce grows well near pine trees because it likes cool temperatures and a moist environment. It also needs some light. I find that for me, the best leaf lettuce grows in places where it gets partial shade and dappled light. It may not look as amazing as full sun lettuce, but the taste is exceptional. And that is what we are after right?
Peas grow well near pine trees because they like cool temperatures and a moist environment. My winter pea patch is actually very close to some pine trees and it yields heavily each year. If peas get too much shade they become powdery mildew magnets.
Pumpkins grow best when the ground is warm and they love sunlight! However, a pumpkin or Hubbard squash for that matter will always make a plan. If you have pine trees around, try and let the squash ramble right up the tree!
I find this really works for me. The squash plant has this ability to just take over and do its own thing. If you send a few squash tendrils up a pine tree, you will find a few beautiful squashes just hanging there for your enjoyment in no time!
A radish can probably grow nearly anywhere on earth! These are fast-growing evil little plants that will coax an existence out of the best and worst soil. I have grown these in partial shade, full sun, desert sun, and temperate sun, and they always thrive.
15. Snap Beans
Snap beans grow well near pine trees because they like cool temperatures and a moist environment. They need a little bit of light but won’t do well if there isn’t any.
Spinach grows well near pine trees because it likes cool temperatures and a moist environment. It needs a little bit of light but won’t do well if there isn’t any.
17. Fava Beans
Not to be confused with green beans they are a summer crop, fava beans do better in fall, spring, or even winter depending on where you are. They need a cool night and some sun during the day but do not enjoy temperatures getting warm by day. I find my Favas do best when day temperatures are in the 50°F range. Close to frost at night helps too.
My fava beans are an important part of the garden. Every year in the colder months they provide an excellent source of protein for both humans and animals!! These beans seem to love pine needle mulch.
20. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes like deep, loose, fertile soil. They like a long growing season and plenty of water. I would not grow them near pine trees.
In Conclusion – What Vegetables Grow Well Near Pine Trees
Pine trees have a bad reputation for making the soil acidic. This is a myth. As long as they do not cast too much shade they can be quite an asset to a garden, acting as a wind break and providing needles for mulch.
Can you plant a vegetable garden under a tree?
Yes, you can plant vegetables, fruits and herbs under a tree. This will depend on how big the tree is. If it provides nearly full shade all day, then probably it is not going to be a good place to grow vegetables. If it is a little tree that just provides a little bit of shade, then go ahead!
Why does nothing grow under pine trees?
Pine trees tend to provide dense shade and smother the soil below them with pine needles. There is a myth that these needles make the soil very acidic - they do no.
Are pine needles bad for grass?
Pine needles are not harmful to grass, but they are hard on lawns. The needles can smother a lawn and need to be turned into mulch or raked up.
Are there vegetables that need shade?
I find most vegetables can be grown in shade, but some do better than others. Lettuce, parsley, celery and spinach do quite well under shaded conditions.