pine bark fines questions

babelsrus(7bNC)March 22, 2013

1. Can pine bark picked up in my yard or taken off the trees be cut up and used for pine bark fines if cut up enough?
2. Is this fine enough?
3. Just introduced to this forum and Al's 5-1-1 mix when looking up best soil to use for my $1.49 tomato plant that I hoped to grow in a container. I haven't begun my search for all the ingredients, but am shocked to read that my beautiful compost nor my huge bag of potting soil with slow released fertilizer are not considered appropriate. The cost of the appropriate ingredients is daunting. Thought these pieces of pine bark might be step one in the process.
Thank you in advance to anyone that has the time or inclination to answer.
Beth

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nycgarden(6)

Hi Beth,
Full disclosure, I'm no 511 expert, but I did make the mix last year. Al is the source for the mix and I would go with his advice.

I think the pieces in your image look like the right size for the mix. Though, It seems like a lot of work to get the amounts of bark you will need for a container. I would make sure that no pesticides or other chemicals came into contact with the bark if I'm going to be eating something growing out of it.

Also, you will definitely need to add a control release fert. like Osmacote Plus to the mix if you are adding fresh bark. I learned this the hard way last year. Decomposing bark uses up nitrogen as it decays which robs it from your plants.

No one is saying not to use the potting mix or compost that you have. I think you could use a combination of both with some other items and have a perfectly good mix for your tomato plant.

The 511 is heralded for its drainage properties due to its large particle size. You could experiment with a variation of the 511 with some of the items you have on hand and save some money. Maybe use some of your potting mix instead of the peat component in the 511 for example. Most potting mixes are 80% peat anyway.

There are many people using variations that either hold more water or drain faster depending on what they are looking to do. It's all about the particle size of the parts you are adding to your mix.

If it was my plant, I'd probably use what I had on hand before spending money on buying extra ingredients.

JMHO,
Dan

Here is a link that might be useful: my gardenblog

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:55AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Good advice from Dan. That bark looks great. Can you gather alot of it? If the bark passes through a 1/2" screen it would work in the 511 mix. I prefer 3/8 and smaller though. Some people have mentioned driving their vehilces over large bark to smash it up. I never tried it, but all ways wanted to. Just to echo what was already said, you can grow tomatoes in almost anything, but something like the 511 mix works very well. From my own xperimentation I need an extra part of peat for additional water retention. My pots don't get much shade.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 11:38AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

What part of the state are you in, Beth? I ask because some of the Lowe's stores in my area (Lake Norman) carry 1.5 cu ft bags of Just Natural brand soil conditioner that works well for the bark component of the 5-1-1 mix, and it costs a reasonable $3.50 or so a bag. Given the time that you put into making your own and the fact that you probably won't have much of the fine material that comes with aging, that might be worth considering. Alternatively, pine bark fines are available from some of the area landscaping materials suppliers, as well. I buy mine from Markham Landscape Products in Denver for just under $30 per cubic yard.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 12:01PM
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babelsrus(7bNC)

Thank you all for your quick responses.
I agree with Dave and think I will probably use a combination of what I have and what I can find.
You are right edweather, while it did fall through a 1/2 " screen, to get the quantities I would need would take a long time!
Shazaam, I am in Raleigh and I did think I had seen some soil conditioner at Lowes. I was just preparing to head over there to scout out how much this will cost. I think the posts I have seen that mentioned cost were people making large masses of the mix and the prices listed were prohibitive. But encouraged by your information, I did a quick google search and think I might be able to find most of what I would need at Lowes or Home Depot.
I had also naively thought the shipping peanuts I have might be a substitute for perlite but further googling indicates that is not going to happen either!
Again, I want to thank you all for your time and helpful information.
Happy gardening!
Beth

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 1:17PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

You didn't ask about the other components, but, just in case it's helpful, I'll mention that Lowes carries a very affordable 3 cu ft compressed peat bale in the potting soils area ($10 or $11). By comparison, the small bags of Miracle Grow peat are ridiculously expensive. On the other hand, I do find that I have to screen the baled peat in order to break up clumps, remove small sticks, etc. Perlite is trickier to find, and you might have to go with the smaller bags at Lowes or Home Depot. Some Home Depots appear to carry larger bags of perlite, though, so you might get lucky. The other option would be a hydroponics store.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 1:42PM
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babelsrus(7bNC)

Thanks Shazaam,
I will look for them there. Thanks again so much, Beth

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 3:24PM
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babelsrus(7bNC)

All,
One last question, I have tried to read the information about watering, afraid it is over my head. How often does this mix require watering, and what type fertilizer do you add if you are adding a diluted amount each time you water. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 3:42PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Mine have to be watered often, either every day or every other day in the heart of the season. The good news is that overwatering is almost impossible due to the fast draining nature of the mix. I like to fertilize with every watering using a liquid fertilizer at 1/4 strength.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 5:41PM
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jonfrum(6)

Just based on my reading here, that looks big to me. As i understand, you want the bark large enough that when they hit up against each other, they leave spaces in between - that's what retains air in the mix and allows free drainage. You don't want them so large that they're just taking up space - roots have to go somewhere. ;-) I seem to recall 1/8 inch being the desired size. That's why it's called pine bark fines, and not just pine bark mulch.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 6:36PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

1/8"-1/4" is correct for the gritty mix. 1/2" to dust, or 3/8" to dust is correct for 511.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:02PM
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silentway(7NC)

Beth, in Raleigh Logan's has a big 18lb bag of Perlite for about $23. The also have 2 cubic ft bags of Soil Conditioner (pine bark fines).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:36PM
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babelsrus(7bNC)

Hi Silentway and friends,
Thank you for that information. I love LoganâÂÂs and am glad to know of another source.
I was successful in my search Friday. I found Soil Conditioner by Timberline(It says Pine Bark Fines) at Walmart- 1.5 cu ft. for $2.98 and Perlite by Schultz- 8 quarts for $3.00. I am attaching a photo- I tried to get everything in one shot. This is my first batch. If my math was correct (kind of rounded it off-I used the 1.5 cu ft of the fines, the whole bag of perlite and an equal amount of peat to that I added approx 13 tablespoons of lime. Now, I wait two weeks and then add the time released fertilizer before planting right? (I dampened it and covered it with a sheet of plastic, it is in the wheelbarrow)
-Does this sound like a good recipe for pots for peppers and tomatoes as well as flowers?
My DH surprised me with a City Pickers Grow Box- a self watering container that holds 1.5L of soil. I know some posters are not very supportive of this type product (but, a gift and / or support from DH have to be appreciated and made to work!)
-Should I make any adjustment for the mix in this container?

-I did see Pine Bark Mulch at both HD and Lowes. Am I correct in that it would work but you have to screen it and you end up only using the finer but not smallest particles?
-Might as well ask my next question, when I finally plant and start watering do I still have to add diluted fertilizer in the water each time? If so, what kind and how dilutedâ¦I think I read 1/8 strength but not sure if that applies since I will add the time released right prior to planting.
Thank you all sooooo much!
Now if the temperatures would get back to normal...but at least I am not tempted to cheat, in 2 weeks time it should be perfect.
Happy, successful gardening to all,
Beth

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:51PM
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babelsrus(7bNC)

Sorry, I think I took so long in typing the response that the picture didn't post, I will try again, if I fail, please excuse me and accept my apologies.
Here goes....

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:54PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

You do need to use a different mix for self watering containers because the mix needs to wick up the moisture from below. One common recipe is 3 parts good quality peat-based potting mix to 2 parts pine bark fines to 1 part perlite. You do need to add dolomite lime to the mix, and I believe it is recommended that you put the controlled release fertilizer in a strip at the top of the mix. I haven't done this myself, so I don't have all the details. Search SWC on this forum to learn more.

Here is a link that might be useful: SWC search

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 1:23AM
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babelsrus(7bNC)

Thank you so much for the container recipe, really glad I haven't mixed my second batch yet.
Now what shall I plant with my 5-1-1 mix... oh the possibilities!
Thank you for the additional link
Beth

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 9:36AM
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