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Go Pine Cone Foraging Now, Be Rewarded With Happier Potted Plants

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I love this time of year. Winter looks like it’s finally waning (in the South at least), and I start to get excited about spring—and gardening. Before starting my container garden after the last frost, there’s one thing I always do to make caring for it easier and more efficient.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Before our final winter yard-raking, I walk around and harvest some of the millions of spent pine cones that have fallen.

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I’ve found that pine cones make the best bottom layer for potted plants: They help with drainage, allow us to use less soil, and make the finished pots lighter. Plus, they're free, and by the end of fall they've already half-composted themselves. A quintuple-threat!

I usually fill the planting container about a quarter of the way up with pine cones, add soil on top, and then I'm ready to plant! It’s enough pine cone to get the full drainage and reduced weight benefit, without compromising space for the roots.

Not that the plants seem to mind: When I break everything down at the end of the season, I’ve seen root systems happily devour whole pine cones if needed. It’s almost like nature knows what it’s doing.

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Photo by Liz Johnson

I also love using pine cones come fall and winter to decorate my home. Here are a few other ways I use nature to add style and coziness to my spaces.

If you don’t have pinecones in your yard, you could probably stumble across them (often quite literally) while dog-walking or spending time at a nearby park. I’ve also used broken-down sticks and twigs to similar effect.

Liz Johnson is the creative director at Braid Creative, and is currently based in Durham, NC.

Do you have any other gardening hacks to share before we all start planting? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: pine cones