Substitute shredded pine for pine bark?

tjs2wMay 18, 2011

I've tried really hard, but I cannot locate bark fines. The bark mulch I can find is way too big.

As an experiment, I put a bag of pine mulch through a screen. I threw the large stuff on my paths, and mixed the fine stuff with peat and pearlite. It seems like a nice, fluffy, structural mix.

Could this work? From what I can read, the downside could be the use of N by the breaking down of the pine. Could I just make sure there was enough additional N for the plant?

Is there another problem I don't see?

Thank you for your help.


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Have you tried checking at a local nursery for the fine fir bark they sell for Orchids, or at a PetSmart for Repti-Bark?

You can also do a search for NJ in this thread - I found several mentions of sources in NJ: Supplies by state/region: Al's Gritty Mix (Though nothing for Colorado where I live. :-( )

I haven't yet made any of the mix, still gathering materials, so obviously I don't have any expertise with this, but I would think that a "fluffy" result is not what you are looking for when you are making a gritty mix! I would think the pine mulch would hold too much water.

I am sure that someone with actual experience with making the mix - perhaps even Al! - will respond to your question.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 12:57PM
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lrvjim(7 to 8)

Yeah, it will be fine. Pass your mulch through say, a 1/4" screen, and what falls through should be A-OK for the 5-1-1 mix. I wouldn't worry so much about the nitrogen issue if you fertilize on a regular basis.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 8:32AM
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Kathleen - for some reason I completely ignored the part where you said you were mixing the mulch with perlite and peat. DOH! Obviously, you were not attempting to make up a batch of the gritty mix (that is what I am obsessing over right now) but making the 5:1:1 mix as lrvjim astutely observed. Please ignore my previous post!!


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 12:26PM
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Kathleen are we talking about pine wood or pine bark? Pine bark good, pine wood bad. filix.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 4:05PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

What size screen did you use? Was it insect screen? If so, than I think your mix will hold too much moisture.
The 5-1-1 shouldn't be "fluffy" really. It should have pieces of bark of about 3/8" down to powder.

Most of us are using 'hardware cloth' welded wire mesh screen to sift for the 5-1-1.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Thanks everyone!

Yes, I tried pinewood. I sifted it through hardware cloth and then mixed it with peat and pearlite. Fluffy may not be the right word - it has some structure, it is holding water but not too much, and it drains nicely.

I just can't spend anymore time and gas looking for the darned PBF.

If the sapwood is bad, howcome? Is it a PH thing, or a decomposition thing?

Baby toms are happy so far ( one week)

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 11:10PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

Search for" 511 mix" on this site,grab a beverage and start reading ,it will answer all your ?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:10AM
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Already sifted pine bark is hard to find. But its easy to make. Wallmart, home depot, lowes ect.. have bags and bags of pine, hemlock bark mulch. You can get partially composted or fresh. Just try to stay away from the mulch that dyed. It will say something like, "color will not fade" Some companies put dye in it to stay light brown or dark brown.

Pine bark is a better choice because, it has properties that fight disease, it resists rot so it lasts longer, it has little to no carbon, so it doesn't steal nitrogen as it breaks down like wood does. I made over 500 gallons of the 5.1.1 this year. I buy mine by the truck load. Making that much would be expensive by the bag. Hope this helps. Filix.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 6:02AM
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I understand your frustration, Kathleen. I have been able to find all of the products (well, with some "authorized" substitutes) for the gritty mix, but have been unable to find the pine bark fines for the 5:1:1 mix. I can't find pine bark mulch or shredded pine bark mulch here.

I haven't checked at Walmart, but according to Walmart's web site, my local Walmarts don't sell ANY sort of mulch, just various Miracle-Gro bagged products. None of the big box stores in my area have pine bark mulch; they do sell pine bark nuggets, but those, of course, are way too big. In fact, none of the nurseries in the area at which I have checked sell pine bark mulch, either - it used to be available, but I haven't seen it in the last few years. Shredded cedar mulch seems to be the mulch of choice around here - there's plenty of that!

I haven't been able to find any sort of pine bark soil conditioner, either.

I guess we both just live in the wrong parts of the USA to make finding the supplies easy - or even possible! And the cost of shipping if ordering supplies on line would be prohibitive - I can't even contemplate doing so because I don't have the $$$ to spare.

I have read some posts where people say that the Repti-Bark can be used for both mixes, but this product is definitely not partially composted so I have my doubts that this is what Al meant should be used in his 5:1:1 mix. Here is a quote from a post Al made in 2009 in reference to the bark in this mix: I like bark best, and the best size for the 5:1:1 mix is sawdust to 1/4" pieces and partially composted, with most of the particles concentrated in the 1/16-3/16 size. I'm NOT suggesting you go out looking for bark that fits this description, but it will give you an idea of what works best.



    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 1:39PM
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I wish I could help. I know there are pine trees in N J and in Co. Are there any saw mills in the area? You could ask them what they do with their bark. Who buys it. This time of the year restaurants, banks, shopping malls, the median strip in all towns, everybody is laying down either pine,hemlock,spruce,fur bark mulch. I know it can be frustrating. I had a hard time finding granite grit for the gritty mix, and I live next to new hampshire the granite state! By the way Al will agree that you can use fresh bark too. Cedar bark might work. Cypress is the only conifer bark that people had trouble with that I know of. filix.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:56PM
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Yes, they do have pines in Colorado....and the pine bark beetle, too. I pretend that the pine nuggets I purchase for mulch for my garden isn't from beetle-killed trees so can't possibly have any of the critters in it...

I have never seen hemlock, cypress, spruce or fir bark sold as a mulch here and can no longer find pine bark mulch. There are various "forest product" mulches that I am not willing to try - most seem to be dyed, too. I really do need to check at John Deere Landscapes to see what they have as some people have had luck finding the pine bark fines there, at least in other parts of the country.

As for cedar bark, Al does not recommend it's use - here is one of his posts on this subject:

I haven't used cedar mulch to grow in, so I can't comment on that practice directly, but I can say that because the tannins, as well as terpenoid and phenolic compounds cedar is rich in are known to be allelopathic (inhibit growth) to many other plants, I have discounted the likelihood that it would be a suitable choice for me. This was posted in this thread: Shredded cedar Al's Mix


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:11AM
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Sorry I cant be of any help. I don't remember reading that about cedar bark. I get my turface from John Deere Landscapes. I have never seen mulch. But I was never realy looking. I know you have Engleman Spruce in that beautiful state of Colorado. I have worked with it and its nice wood. Perhaps Al will chime in to this thread and help us all. Good luck. Filix.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 7:14AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Decent Pine bark has been hard to find here too. And grit impossible. Home Depot has a so so bag, but it has alot of large pieces and sap wood. Earth gro mulch I believe is the name.

Holy, so far the best pine I've been able to find was at John Deere. It seems to have a fair amount of paper thin pieces, which i'm not real thrilled about, but all in all it's the best so far. Some sap wood, but not too bad. I get my son to help pick it out. lol! I much prefer fir bark but that's a little expensive, so I only use it for the house plants.

I just called about 10 other landscape places here yesterday with no luck, so I will be getting more from John Deere.
Here's a picture of it.

And this is it next to Home Depot brand. Home depot on the left.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 7:45AM
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Wow! What a bunch of nice, helpful people.

I guess the proof will be in the pudding. If the plants grow in improvised mix, then I will know. I will do some redundant planting of the culled seedlings, just to be safe.

Finally some clear weather today to do some mixing. Tried to mix last Sunday in the rain...


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 7:49AM
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Kathleen - do let us know how it goes. I figure that it is bound to be better than any commercial bagged mix!

Decent Pine bark has been hard to find here too. And grit impossible.
JoJo - A trip to John Deere is in my future in hopes that the local branches here sell the pine bark mulch - even if it isn't ideal, it is certainly better than the non-existent stuff they have elsewhere here. And I can't believe that you can't find the grit in Arizona! No, I am not calling you a liar, just don't understand why feed stores wouldn't have Manna Pro chicken grit or Ulm's cherrystone #2 in stock; both of these have been listed as worthy alternatives to the Gran-I-Grit. I did a quick search and found quite a few feed stores listed in Tuscon, and at least one, Vaquero Feed, even sells chickens, so surely they have the various grits necessary for raising chickens? If they don't, maybe they can order it for you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Vaquero Feed

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:17PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Well Holly,
As shocking as it seems, I can't find the stuff!
And no, I don't take it as you calling me a liar. :-) . Believe me, I've said it a 100 times, I can't believe I can't find it! I used to have chickens a year ago, everyone has them. lol.. The few grits I have found in big bags have oyster shell and charcoal added.

Thanks for looking into it some for me.

Vaquero only sells Manna Pro. I did get a bag awhile back just to try it. But it only comes in 5lb bags, and is almost $6! I looked into the manufacture and it only comes in that size.

As for gran-I-grit, it looks like it is not distributed to this side of the country, so I doubt anyone is going to order it, and I haven't looked real deep into the cherry stone yet.

I have a few options for substitutes, but I really wanted to use the grit for the weight of it.

Right now I'm looking into screens to sift gravel/grit from the river next to me.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:58PM
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I couldn't find the Gran-I-Grit product here, either, but found the Cherrystone #2 from New Ulm Quarries at the first feed store I went to. Cherrystone #2 is what Al (tapla) uses when he doesn't use the Gran-I-Grit so I was happy to find it so easily. The feed store had the Manna Pro grit as well, which is what I went to the store for in the first place, but I didn't even look at it after finding the Cherrystone. It was cheap, too, as I recall, about $10 for a 50 lb bag.

But, none of that helps you since you can't find it in Arizona. :-( Maybe contact New Ulm and see if they have a distributor in your state?? New Ulm Quarries


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 12:49PM
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