Sifting Bark Fines Question...

prairiemoon2 z6 MAMay 4, 2014

I found some pine bark fines by Agway which are labeled chips. I was told I am supposed to then sift them with 1/2 inch hardware cloth. I'm not clear about what I'm supposed to use, the small particle sizes that fall through the hardware cloth, or the larger particle size pieces that won't go through the hardware cloth?

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Can you post a picture of couple of fistful of it ?

It depends on how much of it is , say smaller than 1/4", and so forth. Too much of 1/2" is not all desireable. I would stick with 3/8" and smaller chips.

Also remember that you need BARK cips not SAPWOOD chips. That is why a picture can clear it up.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Hi PM,

I also use the Agway brand of pine bark mulch. Use the smaller particles that fall through, not the larger bark which is filtered off. Sometimes the Agway material does contain a bit of sapwood (yellow "matchstick" pieces); it's helpful to pull out as much as you can as per seysonn's comment.

If you like, you can use the larger bark fraction to mulch the garden. Hope this helps!


    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 9:05AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

This is the only suitable Agway product that I know of that is good right out of the bag. Photo is a couple of years old. No sifting necessary.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Indeed, that is the product I use. Agway does not market any product called "chips" and I presume this is what OP refers to. They also produce "PB nuggets" and "PB mini nuggets", which are not useful for 5:1:1.

Like most brands, there is some batch to batch variability and I find that it is usually necessary to sift out larger pieces from the pine bark mulch. There can be some pretty large chunks, maybe 20% by volume.

This post was edited by maple_grove on Mon, May 5, 14 at 11:12

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 11:10AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Very happy to hear that this is the right product and that others have used it successfully. ItâÂÂs very accessible for me and that solves that problem.

So, I need to pull out any sapwood [yellow matchstick pieces] as I see any.

Ed, that is the exact bag of Mulch I have. Imagine being able to use it right out of the bag, that would be great. And thank you for the photo.

I may try to sift it, as MapleGrove suggests there is variability, just to see how much of a percentage are larger pieces and if hardly any of them are then IâÂÂll just use them right out of the bag. And when I try to sift it, I will use what falls through the 1/2 inch hardware cloth. And I like the look of this product for mulching too, so IâÂÂll do that, use what I filter off for mulching.

I don't know where I got the term 'chips'. I heard it called that by someone, but you're right, on the bag it says bark mulch like in the photo. They told me at Agway that this was the smallest particle that I could get.

It was Mike on the Houseplant Forum who told me he bought this product and specifically said the blue bag. When I got to the Agway, they knew Mike and the product he used. So I'm sure I have the right one.

So, all good news. Thank you all for the help! :-)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 11:36AM
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I'm glad you have access to this Agway pine bark. I have never used this particular pine bark mulch since there are no Agway stores in my area but other members of this forum speak very highly of it.

Yes you are correct. For the standard 5-1-1 mix you should screen the pine bark with a 1/2" screen or hardware cloth. Anything that passes through the screen is usable for the 5-1-1 mix. If your bag of mulch contains a large portion of fine material (1/8" to dust) then you may be able to reduce or eliminate the peat portion of your 5-1-1 mix.

Good luck and happy screening.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 6:22PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks TYG, that is also good news, that with some fine material I could reduce the peat portion. I am looking forward to seeing what I come up with. It's not always easy to find a good product and the right product for what you need and especially with this 5-1-1 mix, so I'm happy to have it. I spent a couple of years, wanting to try this mix and with minor efforts to find it and not finding it, I kept dropping the idea. So I'm looking forward to seeing how my plants do with it too. It's been awhile waiting to.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 9:31PM
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Click the link below if you want an idea of what Agway pine bark looks like after 1/4" screening. I thought it was too gritty so I eventually ended up building a new 1/2" screen and then re-screened it all.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1/4 inch screened Agway pine bark

This post was edited by njitgrad on Tue, May 6, 14 at 9:09

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 9:05AM
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And here is a link to some of my containers with 1/2" screened pine bark. Unfortunately my broccoli isn't doing very well at all.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1/2 inch screened Agway pine bark

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 9:08AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

njitgrad, thanks for those links. Very appreciative of seeing how everything looked as you sifted first with the 1/4" screen and then the 1/2" screen. And good to know that only 20% of the bag is not usable for this purpose.

I'm sorry your Broccoli is not doing well. I hope you are able to figure out what the problem is and they start catching up with where they should be.

Hard to get everything right, isn't it? [g]

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 10:55AM
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Yes it is very difficult to get everything right. Also it's interesting to note that there is a wide variance in what our soil mixes can be, depending on what we are growing and where we live.

For instance, I modified Al's 5-1-1 soil mix into something that works well for my trees growing in small plastic pots. I basically use only pine bark (screened with 1/2" hardware cloth) and crushed granite, with added lime. Since my pine bark has so much fine material I do not need to add peat, and the granite takes the place of perlite. I will attach a photo for reference.

So you grow something very different and therefore you may need to add different ingredients in order to make your plants happy in your mix.

yes it is hard to get everything right...


    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 8:48PM
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