Urgent Bark advice needed!

robinlmorrisMarch 23, 2014

I am hoping to repot my citrus tomorrow (it was supposed to happen today, hence the urgent), but I can't decide what to do with my bark! So I am looking to the great wisdom of this forum for guidance :)

I recently bought a lot of 1/4 inch minus fir bark. I am planning to use it to make some gritty mix for my citrus trees. Also, because I can't find composted bark fines (other than redwood) anywhere, I am hoping to use some of the dust/fines from this to make some 5-1-1 mix for some self watering planters. I wish I could find the composted fines that were recommended, but this is what I can find, so I want to try to make it work the best I can.

I know from reading this forum that you are supposed to use 1/8-1/4 inch bark pieces in the gritty mix and 1/8 inch and smaller in the 5-1-1 (although composted), but I am still confused about what exactly I should/could do with the bark I have.

In the picture the top right is the leavings after putting the bark through the 1/8 inch screen; the top left is the leavings after putting what wouldn't go though the 1/8 inch screen through the 1/4 inch screen; and the bottom picture is what wouldn't go through the 1/4 inch screen (it is orange because it is in a HD orange bucket).

Most of the bark seems to be in the middle size category, but there are way more larger pieces than I had hoped (and more sapwood than I would like too).

The screens I have available to me are 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 inch.
Can I use the smallest size leavings in the 5-1-1? If so, should the middle size go in the gritty, or can I use it in the 5-1-1 as well?
Should I use the largest size in the gritty as is, or should I screen it with a 1/2 inch screen first?
The screening is a lot of work, so it would be nice not to have to screen all the bark though 2 screen, but I will if it is best for the plants.

Btw, thanks for all the great reads on this forum. It is fantastic that everybody shares all this wonderful info. And to whomever recommended going to The Container Store instead of building screens (I read it somewhere on this board), you are a genius!


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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

5-1-1 size is dust min to 1/2" max, with the vast majority desired in the 1/4" to 3/8" range.

Correct particle size for the respective mixes is much more important than whether the bark is composted or uncomposted.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:04AM
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All the things I read must be getting jumbled in my head!
It is good to hear that the particle size is more important than the composted/not composted.

So the only difference for the fir bar size for the 5-1-1 in and the gritty is nothing Thanks for the quick reply!

This post was edited by robinlmorris on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 1:14

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:11AM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Gritty bark shouldn't be over 1/4".

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 2:50AM
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So should I put it through the 1/2 screen to get rid of the largest pieces or do my largest pieces look small enough? And a 1/4 inch long or wide? If a bark piece is long and skinny acceptable?


This post was edited by robinlmorris on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 15:30

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:01PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You have a LOT of white/yellow sapwood in your fir bark. I would remove as much as you possibly can.

The long skinny pieces of bark are inevitable. As long as they don't make up too much of the mix, or else the texture and drainage may be impacted.

The *Fir* bark in Gritty Mix should range from 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

The Fir bark in 5-1-1 should range from dust up to 1/2 inch max, with the majority averaging in the middle (as Oxboy outlined).


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Thanks... I see all the sapwood, but I have 13.5 cubic feet of this... there is no way I can pick it out; sifting it even once will take me hours. I know I should have looked at it closer before I bought it... I talked to the store where I bought it today (Lygnso), but the product guy was not there.

I wound up not planting today because I still don't know what to do. I tried screening it through a 1/2 inch, but 90% of it fell through because the large pieces are all very thin...

I really don't know what to do. I am new at this and I trying to do things right, but I honestly have no idea what I am doing.
I appreciate the clarification for the sizing for mixes, but I really need some one with experience to tell me exactly what they would to with this "bark" if they were me...

The most important thing to me is that I don't kill/hurt my plants, so should I throw it out because of the amount of sapwood in it? Or is some part of it usable?
Would I be better off using high quality redwood fines?

I know this is sounding desperate, but I am quite upset about this (and I have a lot of plants that are going to start dying soon if I don't get them out of their small planters/seed beds).

Please help! Thanks!


This post was edited by robinlmorris on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 21:29

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:28PM
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If it helps, here is a picture of the unadulterated "bark" (that is a penny).


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:37PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I don't understand when they talk about "COMPOSTED PINE BARK". If pine bark is composted then it is not going to be pine bark anymore but organic soil. You want UNcomposted bark to last and be free of organic micro herds, to last you a while.

So to me pine/fir/? bark has to have certain particle size. Say, 50% smaller than 1/4", 25% bigger than 1/4" and smaller than 5/16" and 25% bigger than 5/16" BUT smaller than 1/2". The partcle size smaller than 1/8" is not much different from coir and peat. What make a BARK medium "Bark Based" is the praticle sizes from 1/8" to 3/8". That is what creates an environment for aeration.

But having said all that, I dont't think one should treat this as an exact science. What we can find, depending on location and even from one batch to the next can be very different. So then we need to relax our standards a bit and be more practical.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:04AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Robin, I think that's far too much sapwood for my comfort level.
I don't think I can recommend the bark. Perhaps if Al (Tapla) sees this he can offer a second opinion.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:46AM
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Thanks Seysonn, I am more relaxed about the sizing now⦠I am quickly realizing that all of gardening is far from an exact science as everything (book or web page) and every person I talk to gives me different and often contradicting advise!

Thanks Josh, it is a hard truth, but everything I've read/looked up the last few days agrees with you. And I do not want small, nitrogen deprived, yellowing plants!

I went back to Lyngso with a sample and they told me that the batch must have gotten contaminated and that they will be getting a fresh batch this week (although they were more surprised about the size issues than the amount of sapwood). Anyway, they are extremely nice, and I will be exchanging it this weekend.

In their display room they have samples of all their materials, so I can see what the 1/4 minus fir bark is supposed to look like (assuming their fresh batch looks as it should). It is the bark pictured on the left. While the size of this bark is more uniform, I still see a lot of sapwood.
Another option is the fine redwood amendment pictured on the right (I didn't have a coin handy, but it seemed uniform and mostly 1/4 inch and under). The description of these redwood fines is interesting:
"Ground up redwood, which is a byproduct of the lumber mills, has been stabilized with nitrogen instead of composted."

Would I be better off using the redwood because of the amount of sapwood in the fir? Is this nitrogen stabilization a good thing or is it something to steer clear of?

Another option I have is I could drive 40 minutes away to evergreen nursery and hope that their 1/4 minus fir bark is not from the same supplier Lyngso. But since I will need a few loads of this stuff, it is not an option I want to take to unless it will really make a difference.

Btw, I am also posting this question on the soil forum, so I can get more feedback before decision time on Saturday. I must actually plant plants this weekend :)

Thanks Again,

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 3:01AM
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