Bark/Wood Chips?

TheMasterGardener1(5B)May 2, 2011

Hi. I am new to this forum and I hear about the diiferent mixs on here like "Al's". I have grown mostly cherry tomatoes along with peppers in containers for a while now. I have been doing good with a perlite/peat/soil mix using synthitic fertilizer. I am thinking bark is cheap and will do as a filler. How much bark should I use? I want to add as much as 50% or more bark. Is that ok? I never thought to use bark but I plan to expand my garden and want to make a more economical mix and I think using bark will do just that. Again how much is ok? And any other thoughts.


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Keep in mind that just any old bark will NOT do. Wood chips aren't what I'd use, either. What you're looking for is pine bark, or fir bark. And any old size will not do, either. You're looking to make a larger particulate the significant portion by volume of the medium. The more fine particles there are, the more they'll simply fill in around the larger ones, negating the very reason you added them in the first place.

Read the article in the link below... it can better explain what I'm saying... medium recipes are given, and size and details discussed. If you have further questions, there are plenty of folks willing and able to help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention 13

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 8:09AM
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Thank you. I am surprised no one else has posted anything.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 12:31PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Jodi is correct.

Pine bark is about the most durable. Then you have Fir bark, which is what most of us use.
Hemlock and Spruce bark would probably work as well. I'd avoid Cedar and Redwood bark, personally.

Again, particle size is important. For a seasonal bark-mix, you want particles ranging from
bark dust up to 1/2 inch. The majority of the particles, however, should average 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

If I've done the math correctly, the percentage of bark in your mix should be about 70 - 80 percent.
Many of us use the 5-1-1 mixing ratio, and 5 parts of bark is a little over 70 percent.

As Jodi also mentioned, you want to avoid sap-wood/wood-chips. Make sure that the inclusion of
sap-wood/wood-chips is less than 10 percent of the overall bark fraction to be on the safe side.
The inner wood decomposes more rapidly than the durable outer bark, and could lead to potential
problems such as nitrogen immobilization, heat spikes (due to decomposition), and eventual compaction
(again, due to decomposition).

When using bark, it is best to add Dolomitic Lime as a Calcium source and moderate pH buffer.
Add 1 Tablespoon of Dolomitic Lime per gallon of mix. Mix thoroughly, and you're good for the season.

That should hit most of the key points.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:53PM
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Thank you. Now that I look around on here i see the 5-1-1 it is nice and will use it. I cant wait!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:59PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You'll really enjoy it.
I've referred to the 5-1-1 as my "work horse" around the yard.

Not only is it economical, it is also lighter in weight than saturated peat mixes,
attractive, and very easy to mix together. I use uncomposted bark, as well,
which helps the mix to last even longer than recommended. As Al says, the mix actually
lasts longer than would be a prudent amount of time to go between re-pottings.

I have ferns, vegetables (radishes, onions, hot peppers, tomatoes), peaches, birches,
pistache, osage, maples, willows, buckeyes, ailanthus, cedar, calocedrus, cypress,
redwood, pines, citrus, and even oaks in the 5-1-1 mix. I can attest to its versatility.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 2:54PM
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