Pine needles and gutters are a frustrating combination. If you live in a home or condominium near an evergreen tree that drops pine needles, you’ve got different problems than a home that’s near deciduous, or leaf-dropping, trees. Here are six facts to know about your gutters when they collect pine needles.
- Pine needle loss is seasonal. According to Christine Engelbrecht, Plant Pathologist at Iowa State University, every fall she gets flooded with calls from distraught tree-lovers. “My pine tree has looked great all summer, and now it’s dying! What’s wrong?” Many of the inner needles have turned yellow or brown and are falling off, often alarmingly. She notes that while most conifers do stay green all year, evergreens don’t keep all their needles all the time. When deciduous trees lose their leaves, most evergreens also drop needles – but not all of them. Each year in the fall, it loses the oldest needles (those closest to the trunk). This normal phenomenon is called seasonal needle loss or fall needle drop.
- Pine needles that blanket a roof are not likely to blow away. When needles drop at an alarming rate, they can often coat a roof. The lower the pitch, the more difficult it is for them to be blown away in a stiff wind. This means pine needles are more likely to be pushed down the roof by rain at practically a glacial pace. They’ll also have no where else to go but into your gutters.
- It only takes a few pine needles to knit over a downspout to cause a clog. If water flushes debris towards a downspout, it’s likely pine needles can build up over the downspout opening. As we’ve mentioned in a prior post, the opening is likely much smaller than the downspout itself. At the very least, consider installing a gutter outlet that’s larger than the downspout itself to help flush pine needles out of the gutter.
Pine needles are small and can get through most gutter guards. It isn’t hard for pine needles to get through every screen on the market. The holes in their surface are just too big to keep them from dropping through and into the gutter. Solid cover curved systems fare only a little better: Debris becomes pliable once wet and will follow water around the curve and into the gutter below.
- Micro mesh gutter guards that can be pitched with the roof line offer the best protection. Any gutter guard that sits virtually flat over the gutter will create a shelf that will trap debris. This includes products like sponges or perforated metal products. While they may not let a lot of debris in, they create the perfect place for pine needles to start to break down and create a humus mulch–not something that you want on top of your gutter.
- Evergreen trees often mean lots of shade, which can create a great place for moss, lichen and algae to grow. Keep your roof regularly cleaned to preserve it and your gutters. Installing copper strips will help to keep it from returning better than zinc strips.
With the right TLC, you can enjoy all the beauty that your evergreen affords your property and keep your gutters in tip top working order at the same time.