are my 5-1-1- pines fines a bit too fine?

njitgradMarch 27, 2014

Per recommendations from others in various threads I decided to screen my first of four bags of Agway pine mulch prior to making my first batch of 5-1-1.

I used a 1/4" screen and when all was said and done (1/2 hour later) , about 1/3 of the mulch made it through the screen, leaving me wondering what to do with the remaining 2/3 (other than using it in my landscaping).

See the pics below taken before and after the screening process. Does 1/4" screening give me something that's a little bit too fine, or is this what its supposed to be like? If it's the latter, then it's going to cost me some serious paper to fill all of my containers.

Could I perhaps replaced the "5" in the 5-1-1 with "4 parts screened, 1 part un-screened" to at least make some use of the remainder?

Any suggestions for a first-time 5-1-1 mixer are appreciated.

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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Your 1/4" screened product looks good. That said, you can "bulk" it up by running some of those bigger chunks through some 1/2" screen to add back into the 5-1-1. This way you're not wasting so much...(by 'wasting' I mean not using it for its intended 5-1-1 purpose...I still use 1/2" plus size chunks all the time for various secondary applications such as mulch, helping to build up low topsoil sp ots out in the yard, composting, donate it to schools/bio classes for their reptile tanks, etc). Getting only 1/3 usable material out of a bag, no matter how cheap the bag, is not good bang for your buck (and time/effort spend sifting), so you need to find a use for some of that extra 2/3.

Aside, but related -- if you ever want to make Gritty, your 1/4" stuff is the perfect bark ingredient for that mix minus any dusty fines.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:20PM
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Thanks for the advice. I knew I should have bought the 1/2" screen when I got my sifter a couple years ago. Looks like I'll have to make my own 1/2" sifter now. It should be pretty easy to make a DIY sifter now that I have the exact dimensions I need from the sifter I purchased.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:27PM
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lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)

If you want to stay at the

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:20AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

That is some beautiful bark.....
I bet it smells great.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:27AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Well, 1/4" probably is fine to use but most of what did not make it through the sift seems to be still usable for potting mix. You can make your own 1/2" sift from wire clothe . Nothing to it . Make a frame from, say, 2 by 3 and fasten the wire cloth to one face of it.

I would use the bigger piece as filler at the bottom of container, for better drainage from the bottom

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:25AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

No, don't put differently sized material at the bottom of the container - that will impede drainage. Better to incorporate the larger material evenly throughout the mix.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:07AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

My thoughts too, Josh!!

Nice looking ...

Great find!!!!


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:33AM
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Last night I ended up making my own identical 1/2" screening frame which cost about $20 in materials and about an hour's worth of time to make.

This morning I re-screened the leftover from the other day using the 1/2" screen and was far more pleased with the results. Rather than only yielding 33% of the bag as usable, I now yielded at least 80% use.

What was left was tossed into my landscaping. I then used a shovel to thoroughly mixed the fine 1/4" screened material from the other day with the newly screen 1/2" mix. Since the former was still in my wheel barrow it was easy to mix it pretty uniformly.

I guess I'm set to go!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 3:52PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good work!


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:43PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Way to go, njitgrad,

Your original UNSIFTED bark looked pretty nice. Now we know it just had about 20% bigger than 1/2".

If Josh speaks against using those big pieces at the bottom, How about on the top, AS MULCH ?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 5:08PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes! The big pieces make a nice top mulch, indeed.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 5:58PM
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