Pine Bark Fines Substitute?

johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)November 18, 2010

I'm having trouble finding pine bark fines for the gritty or 5-1-1 mix. Can anything be substituted for it? I'll be growing mostly peppers & tomatoes. I have a quite a bit of yard compost if that could be used. Thanks, John

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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

I looked at some of the previous posts on this forum about bark substitutes. They all seem to try to help people find bark, but I haven't seen anything that states yes or no whether substitutes exist or what they are.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 7:26AM
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John....I've seen your posts and I don't have an answer to the "substitute".....What city ?

I'm in Orlando and found the pine bark fines at a Landscape/Mulch's the bagged product line they carry......

I called and they do sell some fines to "Tropical Soils" in Broward county for making potting mixes.......unknown if they are available to retail ?

I'm growing vegetables......I'm new to the soiless mixes.....for years I tried all manner of "compost" soil combinations in containers that always resulted in rot over time......Bottomless containers were the only soil successes

This Fall I'm having great results with Al's 5-1-1

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 1:35PM
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For me, there is no subtitute for bark fines..

But, you are not without hope..Just let a bit of time go by and many will direct you to distrutores around your area if you are willing to drive..I am a bit suprised that local HD and Lowe's do not stock this there..I remember picking up lot's of it at HD in St Peterburg to landscape my Aunt's home a couple of years ago..

There are many here from Florida that use pine bark fines and would love to share where they get them with you..


    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 4:03PM
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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

Here in Boca Raton, Home Depot,Lowes etc. sell bark fines in 8 qt. bags(orchid mix) for $4.50/bag. Needing 2 bags per container that would be too pricey for my budget. 2 cubic ft. bags of pine bark nuggets are $2.25/bag which is reasonably priced. Others on this forum have found suppliers of turface & granite grit in my area but I'm still searching for bark fines.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 6:57PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

I have a related question...when I go to Home Depot(Los Angeles area) they have 2 cu ft bags of redwood(?) in different sizes such as large, nuggets. But it's always labeled as "mulch". Could someone describe the difference between bark fines and these mulch nuggets?

Answering my own question, looking at the link mentioned by abnorm, there are pine bark fines in 3/8",3/4". 1" sizes, and pine bark nuggets from 3/4" to 2 1/2". So it must have to do with the shape...are fines more of a shredded bark and nuggets (and larger) just chunks?


    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 5:20AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Fines are ...... well, ..... fines. The best sizes for the 5:1:1 mix are dust to 3/8". The gritty mix works best with bark sized 1/8 - 1/4".


    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 8:35AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I'm not sure if one will find much consistency in Bark labels - at least I haven't.
I use two Fir Bark products for my mixes: Orchid Bark in fine grade, and Micro Bark mulch.
I've taken the liberty of attaching a few pics to help explain the products and process by
which I attain bark in the appropriate size-range (which Al provided above).

A couple bags of Micro Bark:

A bit of the bark in hand:

Large pond-basket and plastic plant flat (1/4 inch grid):

Bark on the plastic nursery flat - anything under 1/4 inch falls into the pond-basket:

Once in the basket, I can remove any sapwood or "match stick" pieces of bark,
as well as rinse out the fine dust. For the 5-1-1, I keep most of those fine particles.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 11:12AM
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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

I finally found a pine bark fines supplier. The Bushel Stop carries 2 cu.ft. bags for $6.75. They have several locations
in southeast Florida.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 1:45PM
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suddensam(10 Boynton Beach)

Johnweh, please tell me which bushel stop carries pine fines. I live in Boynton Beach, and I have not found any.
Plant em if you got em.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:07PM
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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

I got mine at the Delray store on Atlantic. They have another store in Lake Worth.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 10:47PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

I found mine at a Walmart of all places...not sure if only some WM carry them...but it might be worth a try. I'm sorry I didn't keep the bag but this is what it looks like and it sells for $2.79 for the 2 cu.ft. size bag. Of course you have to "sift" it to get rid of all the fines.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 8:38PM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

Hold on, Al. You're saying that pine dust can really be used to make a 5:1:1 mix? I have tons of leftover dust from sifting that just takes up space.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 6:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Let's backtrack & review what you learned about particle size and PWTs: You can include a fairly small % of fine particles in the 5:1:1 mix and still have a very serviceable soil, but if you start 'saving' your bark fines to make a soil of them, it's not going to be all that much different than a peat-based soil. If you include a lot of fine particles in the 5:1:1 mix, eliminate the peat. I didn't say you want a large fraction of 'dust' in your 5:1:1 mix, rather that you needn't screen it out for that soil.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 8:09PM
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flyingfish2(9b w stuart)

john, I am in the Stuart area and have not found a suitable source of pine fines locally. Silvia, who is the florida 5-1-1 guru, buys them from Bolling Forest Products north of orlando. I am thinking of making a run up with a trailer to get a load. If you interesting in sharing the travel expense, I could bring some south for you also.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 8:51PM
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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

Thanks for the offer Bernie, but there is a Bushel Stop in Port St. Lucie (The Bushel Stop
1701 SW South Macedo Boulevard
Port St Lucie, FL 34984-3425 (772) 878-5220) that would be much closer to Stuart than where I am. Atlas Peat & Soil( is the parent company of The Bushel Stop. If you place a large enough order, they will custom mix and or deliver to you.
Happy Thanksgiving, John

    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 9:18PM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

Thanks for that bit of information, Al. Suddenly the 5:1:1 mix is within reach, since I can save hours of sifting fines and go straight to making the mix. Thanks indeed.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 10:20PM
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brigarif Khan

Is there a sustitute ?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2010 at 1:43AM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

"If" there is I haven't found it!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 11:27AM
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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

I found Timberline Pine Mulch at the Coconut Creek FL Walmart for $2.68/2cu.ft. The bag only says pine mulch, but the receipt rings up as pine bark mulch. I went on Timberline's website & saw that they have another product called Soil Conditioner. The website gives no details on either product so I sent them an email for more info.
I spent $6.75/bag at a different store last week. Hopefully the Timberline mulch is of good quality because the price can't be beat.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 6:23PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

John, I posted a picture of the Bark that I bought at Walmart 8 posts above...I'm sure its the same one you bought. Its great just have to sift all the dust and little bit of sand that's mixed in. Like you said the price can't be beat!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 8:03PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

You can buy pine bark mulch and mow over them with the bag attached to it. Pretty cost effective for sure. You just have to make sure to set up something to trap flying barks though.

It also works great if you have wood chipper. If you know anyone that has it, borrow it, use it, store them in garbage cans for later use and you're set for the year.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 8:24PM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

Lou: mowing is indeed useful, except you still wind up with a lot of chunks even after several passes with the mower.

I use five large moving boxes set up around the mowing area: cheap and easy to set-up and store.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 11:39PM
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I was under the impression that 5-1-1 and gritty mix were two terms for the same mix. How/when do you use each of them?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 12:13AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

5-1-1 is 5 parts bark, 1 part peat, 1 part perlite.
It is best used for annuals or plants that will be re-potted seasonally or so.
It is an excellent outdoor media that is durable, lightweight, and inexpensive.
Bark also has a low starting pH, and so this mix is great for acid-loving plants.
Raising the pH, however, is as easy as adding Dolomitic Garden Lime.

Gritty mix is 1 part bark, 1 part turface, and 1 part granite (or other non water-retentive grit).
This mix is extremely durable, though somewhat more expensive, and is best for woody plants that
will be grown in the same mix/container for 1-3 years - such as bonsai candidates (conifers, maples).


    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 1:45AM
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I am new here and also to container gardening i am wondering if anyone knows where to find pine bark fines in st louis mo i would appreciate any help

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 6:37PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

FWIW, I was curious about the Timberline Pine Mulch being sold at Walmart. I contacted the company and they told me that it was a mixture of the tree and bark, not just bark. So far I have stayed away from it. Although, I have to say, that the bark shown in the picture up thread looks really good. Go figure. Maybe I'll buy a bag and check it out.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 7:50PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

I've bought one bag of Timberline pine bark each year for three years now. The first bag was decent. It had too much sapwood, but the rest was pine bark of an appropriate size. The next two years were terrible. I think they started throwing in all the junk forest products they could find. There's lots of sapwood and soft flexible material (inner bark?), but not much of the tough outer bark we want. The particle sizes are mostly big chunks and fine dust. It doesn't even look nice as a decorative mulch. I honestly don't know who would buy it outside of desperate soil aficionados like me. :)

Maybe you'll get lucky and find a good batch, but I'm done with it.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 8:33PM
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I know at least one other person has mentioned this before, but pine bark fines are commonly sold as "soil conditioner" these days. This is certainly the case at my local nursery. If you're lucky, the employees will be knowledgeable enough to point you in the right direction.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 10:28PM
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rosesr4me(z9 FL_west)

With great surprise, I found Scotts Premium Top Soil is mostly pine fines (I was expecting the usual muck soils) Don't know if I got a few "defective" bags or not, but the pine bark pieces are very small. I have used it for mulch and for Al's potting mixture and it is working great.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 4:57PM
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If I read this correctly I could just use unscreened pine bark much (particles 1/2" or smaller) and perlite for the 5:1:1 mix, and not add any peat, correct? So I'd really have a 5:1 mix (pine bark and perlite).

I have a big bag of this Timberline pine bark mulch from last year and the size is fairly good. So if I only remove the large pieces, over about 1/2", I shouldn't have to remove the fines, just mix in perlite and lime and end up with a good seasonal mix.

Just wanted to make sure I have this right before I try it.

Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:37PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Rises4 - I think I would skip the Scott's Premium Topsoil, just because topsoil and/or a high % of pine particulates are not such a good choices for inclusion in container media. From The Scott's web page about this product, under the tab Details and Usage:

Where to Use
For use in lawn and gardens.color>

Where Not to Use
Not for container planting.color>

Margo - we start with the large bark particles to ensure we get great aeration, then we add enough fine particles (peat) to make sure we get enough water retention w/o destroying aeration. You want somewhere around 80% of the particles to be larger than 1/8", and the rest to be fine, so use that as a guide. If your bark has a LOT of fines and is generally small in size, you prolly don't need any peat; but if it's large, with few fines, you might need a little more peat. You basically want as much aeration as you can get w/o creating watering problems for yourself. One of the great things about making your own soils is you can adjust the water retention to whatever you feel you need/want.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 1:53PM
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glad2garden(5, Chicopee, Mass)

I've looked everywhere for pine bark fines and can't find them. I've been to home depot, lowe's, rocky's, Ace, local nurseries, and walmart. I have 4 arborvitaes and 4 nice big pots waiting to be filled. Is anyone in Western Massachusetts able to find something suitable? thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:03AM
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Al, just because the Scotts website says that, doesn't really mean much to me. Did it say something specific?

It could be "well, the pH would be too low for most plants using this as a container potting mix". Or "bark just doesn't hold enough water, you really want something that is heavy in peat, especially if you're only using it for one season or if it'll be used in summer".

Your messages (i.e. educational posts) are indirectly teaching people to not trust labels, the status quo, and to think out-of-the-bag, I mean box. Learn the science behind it first and not trust marketing/promotional material unless it's transparent.

Just wondering if you knew something specific about the mix. It would be so nice to find several vendors of bark products we could use.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 7:18PM
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Pecan hulls or Pecan shells?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:48AM
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I'm not sure that I've read anything on this forum that provides a viable alternative to pine or fir bark in 5-1-1 or gritty mix.

Every other ingredient seems to have an acceptable substitute, except for the bark.

Of course you could try to eliminate the bark completely and grow plants in 100% DE or something like that, but that still doesn't answer the question about bark substitutes.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 7:03PM
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In my area of the midwest its like finding gold I guess. I recently checked for pine fines at home depot 4qts. container $9.99 enough said.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2015 at 9:33AM
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I found a wonderful source for pine bark at a bulk sand & gravel CO. they had 4 kinds, the smallest being "supreme pine bark". last time I was there I got about 40 gal. for $7.

1 Like    Bookmark   last Tuesday at 5:11PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Great Halocline, I'm glad you found a source for Pine Bark...great price too!!

Wow, I had no idea how old this thread is lol...2010

3 Likes    Bookmark   last Wednesday at 4:51AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Steve - adding something to your user info so we know where you hang your hat will often result in more specific suggestions. In some cases, people have even suggested outlets for specific soil ingredients in the town the poster asking for help lived in.

Hi Nance! Nice to see you here. Lots of really old threads turning up since the big changeover. I hope you're well & not too smug, I mean SNUG, down there where it's close to 100* warmer than here in MI. ;-)


2 Likes    Bookmark   last Wednesday at 6:41PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Hi Al...Thanks!! It a little hard to get used to the new forum,lol...I don't like too much change :o) It will take me some time to get used to it, haha! My email is stacking up from GW emails, didn't use to do that before...I will have to switch off notifications,lol...or I will have a full email box

Yes, I feel SO bad for all of you guys dealing with all of that snow and miserable weather. I sure hope it ends soon! I feel bad for complaining when we had a one day freeze here (hit 29°-32°) for 5 hours...remember we are <b>not</b> used to that type of weather here,lol...damaged a lot of my inground plants...honestly, I'm NOT complaining just sharing!!

Fingers crossed you ALL get the warmer temps you truly deserve :o)

1 Like    Bookmark   last Thursday at 4:42AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I get it. Because of the less hardy stuff you guys have all over in the landscape, a freeze can be a devastating event. The last 2 years have been like living in Little Siberia for us. So strange ...... I took the first week of March off 2 years ago to repot trees because all my bonsai were forced to grow by really warm temps last wk of Feb. From Sat to Fri (end of Feb -1st wk of Mar), I worked in shorts & a tank top, repotting. For the same wk THIS year, temps won't even get close to above freezing, and night lows won't make it out of the teens. Enough already!

I usually try to avoid crosstalk, but I bet the OP won't mind, seeing the thread is from 2010. Lol Stay warm & give Max a scratch for me, plez!


1 Like    Bookmark   last Thursday at 12:27PM
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