Trying to make $ense out of 5-1-1

williammorgan(6b)April 27, 2014

Once I tried to use mulch(bark)for mulch and had a bad experience and never went back.

However I'm looking for an economical solution to container garden things since all my other areas are filled up. I've read "fine" pine bark is the key that is slightly decomposed. I don't see this available any where in large quanities only 4 quarts of it for $10...ummm I think I can find some potting mix much cheaper. Other than removing the old mulch off your neighbor's property in the dead of night, wher do you find this stuff? What is it's purpose. Mulch sold at Home Depot and Lowes is designed for longevity. They purposely don't offer anything fine in large bags for $2 or $3. So what is fine pine bark mulch for? I figure if I know why people use it I might have a better chance at finding it at more affordable prices.

I'm still afraid of nitrogen deficiency though. I've read countless posts and all the warnings. I won't have time to decompose it. So is it even worth the risk when the stores are not going to carry the tomato plants I grow and a tomato is not just a tomato.

I intended to just use promix but can't find it locally anymore and was worried about the over all cost. Don't want to use miracle grow potting mix because I don't like the fertilizer in it. I prefer organic fertilizers and since using them my tomatoes have done better.

I think it would be nice to have a cheap solution but I'm not seeing one. I see big bales of peat, perlite in my near future.

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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

A lot of people have found suitable pine bark in big box stores as well as at garden centers, landscapers and mulch supply companies. It is usually not called pine fines. It may be called mulch or soil conditioner. You need to look at what's inside the bag. Avoid shreds or nuggets. I've found bags at hardware stores labelled pine bark mulch that have been sitting outside and beginning the composting process so most of the particles are smaller than a half inch.

Now days I buy pine bark fines under that name for about $3.50 for 2 cubic feet from Ohio Mulch. The stuff I buy is not partially composted, but it works very well in both 5-1-1 and gritty mix.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:50AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Where are you located? That might help....

I buy Greenall Micro Bark. It's more expensive than other bark products, but a heck of a lot less than a bag of Happy Frog or Fox Farms Ocean Forest potting mix (which is what I add to my 5-1-1 for moisture retention/binding).

Sometimes Home Depot has a deal of Earth Gro ground cover bark, but you *must* make sure that the bark is small - not the giant bark chunks. I'll attach a picture for you.

Josh

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:23PM
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williammorgan(6b)

Okay I'm seeing that stuff on a Home Depot link but not available at my store. I'd imagine one store can ship to another though.

So I just sift this stuff down to 1/2 inch, mix with perlite(available in large bags locally)and some peat moss and or potting mix, lime, slow release. Should I add blood meal as well at planting time to have some extra nitrogen available?

My idea is home made fabric containers(pvc frame, weed guard sides)in side a greenhouse(cold..not for long though).

I also want to try potatoes this way on the patio since I have extra and want to see how well they do.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:10PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

No need for blood meal. The one time I used that stuff, I had huge tomato plants and very few tomatoes. Too much nitrogen is as bad as not enough. Honestly, I don't think the pine bark breaks down fast enough to rob nitrogen from your plants. The reason we use pine or fir bark is that it resists decomposition due to high levels of suberin, the waxy substance that protects the tree from loss of moisture. Conifer (pine and fir) bark has more of this that hardwood bark.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:22PM
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williammorgan(6b)

I agree with the idea of limiting nitrogen to tomato and other fruiting plants because of what you suggest. I stopped using hot fertilizers years ago and only use organic types. Last year at some point I just stopped fertilizing on purpose. I veg my tomatoes out and let them fruit. In a greenhouse they veg out pretty quickly.

I only mentioned extra nitrogen because I have no experience with this and came across a post where some guy's 5-1-1 had a nitrogen deficiency. Although it was argued he didn't screen the large particles I still want to be cautious.

I'm hoping in a greenhouse the bark will break down much faster than it would in open air. I think this will be the case because of temperatures. I remember one warm sunny day in April last year tilling with a maddock in 120 degree+ temps. I was starting to decompose! Ha!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:41PM
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williammorgan(6b)

After doing some more research the product above is regionally made for western states only. It's not available in MA where I am.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:56PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Agway bark. Lots of MA folks seem to use that.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:10PM
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williammorgan(6b)

Where I'm located Agway resellers are quite a hike and I don't drive.

I'm looking into Oceans of Maine products. They have 2 products that are aged 40-50 years old. One has kelp in it. They're probably pricey. Their lobster compost is.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:37PM
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williammorgan(6b)

Think you're right Greenman,

I've been scouring the area asking lanscape companies about their mulch but it would seem my immediate area doesn't carry pine bark of a fine grade.

Of course I've got to make sure the Agway reseller closest to me carries the stuff. They're out in the sticks so to speak. I'm in a city.

My potatoes are my first concern right now. Although i've already got plenty in the ground I want to see some container grown ones. Peppers and tomatoes can wait. My seedlings are fairly small and it's cool out. Do them no good to leave the warmth.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:51PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Just recently I found out Home Depot has a program that allows you to order a product the local store does not carry, and have it delivered to the local store for you to pick up with no freight charged. You might look up the bark Josh mentioned to be able to get it locally. Al

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:06AM
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williammorgan(6b)

Yeah I've went to Lowes for example and ordered horse fence to keep my cow of a dog out of my garden(yeah and that worked Ha!). The fence was shipped from another store maybe 7-10 miles away. The mulch he mentions is for the western US. They source this stuff locally. I'm inclined to think they wouldn't ship something 1000's of miles away for free. We do have a grain store about 7-10 miles away. It's the stuff Greenman mentioned and I've read a lot of posts about it on this forum. It's definitely all bark no shreds and the pieces look small. I'll need 12-15 bags(depends on how much large pieces have to be taken out) for what I want to do. Gonna try to bum a ride because it might be too daring to pile 15 bags high in my bicycle trailer! Ha! It would be a sight but a wobbly one.

Now I do have a nursery that has some Coast of Maine products and possibly Foxfarm products along with a better selection of additives than say Home Depot and Lowes. Gotta raise some more money though. My plan is 10 tomatoes in 20 gallon fabric pots, 10 peppers in 10 gallon fabric pots and 10 potatoes in garbage bags. What can I say I want to experiment.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 11:28AM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

5-1-1 is a great mix and not least because the ingredients can be widely found across the country ... but for what it's worth, some of us might have suppliers with very similar mixes available by the cubic yard. (Anyone near commercial greenhouses.) To fill a lot of pots you might get a friend with a truck to help you pick up a yard. 27 cu ft. 201 gallons.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 11:57AM
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williammorgan(6b)

I've looked around locally and all the mulches seem to be coarse. If it comes out to be $5 a bag or something that's not really bad.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 12:46PM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

Just to be clear. I'm talking about buying the completed mix by the cubic yard.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:48PM
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williammorgan(6b)

Oh I don't know of any places that would have that. I actually wanted to experiment with certain potting mixes to see which did better.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:50PM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

OK, cool. I have my experiments as well :-)

Actually I intended to show someone how to mix potting soil this past weekend, but we asked the guy about the pallet of torn bags ... we left with an assorted car full at 75% off. That's life.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 3:40PM
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williammorgan(6b)

That's good! Don't think I'll make off like a bandit(puts case cutter back down ;).

This mulch does look exactly like what is recommended:

http://www.agway.com/product_image/file/2163/blowup/102-02313_-_Agway_Pine_Bark.jpg?1253213229

So maybe I do make off because it would seem some in other parts of the country have an easier time in finding the right base.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:15PM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

That looks good to me too, but I'd defer to an experienced 5-1-1 hand.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 7:59PM
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williammorgan(6b)

Well I did from this forum. Had to sift through quite a few posts to get a feel for mulch. You see I mock my neighbors for laying down mulch because I see decorative mulch as an invite to cats. I don't have much experience with mulch save for the one time I killed a few tomato plants and the time someone dumped a bunch of un-splittable hardwood/apple tree trunks and bark in the back yard. After all the logs were painstakingly split and or moved what was left was some pretty rich soil with a worm every 2 inches. Combine that with some landscaping bushes I can't spell their name at this time in the cedar family sinking their tenacious red roots into the pile of bark mulch the soil was wonderful and tomatoes grew like crazy in it despite my close spacing. Oh and another time tree bark was left to sit and how it did wonders for the soil.

This fall I want to scout out some well rotted mulch someone wants to get rid of that isn't hardwood and hopefully i have a rototiller by then.

I'm still a bit skeptical about mulch and lime that hasn't been allowed to develop but i'm gonna try to make a go of it. My tomato plants have no business outside until Memorial day so I'll get them growing big and more mature and allow the concoction of 5-1-1 to evolve a bit in my greenhouse. It'll start to get real hot in there and the 5-1-1 will be wet and begin to rot.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:43PM
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