How to make composted pine bark?

margo_k(5)August 21, 2011

I have several bags of pine bark mulch and some of that Repti-bark (fir bark). None of it is composted. How to I make this bark into "composted" bark?

Thanks!

Margo

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Joe1980(5)

Put it in a pile outside and treat it as compost. Adding some nitrogen will speed up the process, and to keep your pine bark fines 100% pine bark fines, use a synthetic source of nitrogen. Turf Builder lawn fertilizer works good for that. Just pile a layer of about 6 to 8", sprinkle a handful of fertilizer, and reapeat.

Joe

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 11:38AM
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margo_k(5)

Thanks Joe. So all that's needed is to have a pile of pine or fir bark, add nitrogen (lawn fertilizer) and wait? Do I need to soak the bark in water or is water not necessary?

I thought I read on another site that you can simply place pine or fir bark in a garbage bag, add water, close the bag, and let stand over the fall and winter, and by spring the bark would be composted. Must be I read it wrong, sounds like all I would have is wet bark, not composted bark? Guessing I would need a nitrogen source to start the composting.

Margo

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 7:57AM
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capoman(5a)

I would also suggest running it through a chipper if the chunks are large first. You want to end up with fines.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I think the bag method would work, but it could take six months. If you have a large enough pile, close to the composting ideal of one cubic yard, you could get partially composted bark in 6-8 weeks using a little nitrogen if the pieces are fairly small to start with. In either case, you do need to wet the bark well.

But, I have a couple questions. Are you wanting to use the finished product for one of Al's soil mixes? You wouldn't want to completely compost it for 5-1-1 because you'd want most of the pieces around 3/8 inches in diameter. Adding nitrogen might be overkill. When i make 5-1-1, I just look for damaged bags of pine bark mulch that's in smallish pieces. It is already partially composted because of the rain.

As for the Reptibark, I've only seen it recommended for the gritty mix, and you don't want it to be at all composted for that mix. It is very expensive (like $20 a cubic foot), and you would need a lot (2 or 3 cubic feet or more) to have the bulk needed to get the compost process going that it seems like a waste. The advantage of using fir bark in the gritty mix is that it takes a very long time to break down, like years.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 1:52PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Good to know! I've had about 8 bags of wet pine bark mulch stacked behind my shed this year. Hopefully by spring it should be composted nicely. I bought the bags this spring on clearance for 82 cents a bag. I did peak into a bag and some of the pieces were a little large. Maybe having them sit around for a year will work out well.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 2:23PM
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Joe1980(5)

I bought some in February this year, because it was pretty much sitting there for quite some time. I was frozen solid, but once thawed, was perfect for 5-1-1 mix. I dunno that I'd recommend doing the bag method though, unless you have time to waste, because the bags won't have the bacteria to get started on decomp. I'd still just dump it in a pile, add a bit of nitrogen, and wait until spring. The stuff in the middle will be done first. As mentioned, keep it moist, and mulch/shred it up if needed. Then again, if you have plenty of time, just throw the bags somewhere outside, poke holes in the bag to allow rain in & out, and wait it out.

Joe

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 7:36PM
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