I have quite a few bales of pine needles left over from mulching the garden and landscape plants over the summer. I know that in a lot of south Georgia bogs, as well as places in New Jersey etc., pines are the dominant trees and their dropped leaves often help acidify the soil and make for a great carnivore habitat. I'd like to start mixing them into my medium, and I have several questions about their use for those who have more experience than me.
(1) What in the world do you chop them up with? Trying to rip them up is tedious not to mention splintery, and it's difficult to work them into the medium.
(2) How, chemically, do they (and other coniferous vegetation like cypresses, cedars, etc.) help acidify the soil? Do they leach out something? Do they break down into something that acidifies it?
(3) Pine needles turn, over time, a whitish-gray color from the original red/orange/brown. I know in a bog setting decay wouldn't occur as fast if at all, but why does this happen in "normal" soils?
(4) Anything else interesting about pine needles anyone can think of?