Bark for EC/CC/TG Cacti

lenle(4)August 8, 2012

I want to try repotting my holiday cacti in bark, which I am given to understand they not only prefer but likewise thrive in. I will be repotting and potting up a TG cactus, repotting only an EC and some CC cuttings I received from a GW member. With the exception of the TG cactus potted in nursery soil, the rest are potted in gritty mix. Will the bark below (used in gritty mix) work? Should I presoak it to ensure it will hold moisture? On average, how often should I then water (only when all the bark is dry, only when the top inch is dry, etc)?

Jeni

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Jeni - Josh likes all bark or lots of bark for his. I have 3 starts in the gritty mix and they're doing well, but I would defer to Josh because I think he has considerably more experience with the plant and is a good observer.

I think your bark is a little on the large side, but still prolly ok for the gritty mix, especially for the cacti. Can you screen through a 1/2" screen? I'd water them like you would your other tropicals except in the fall & winter when keeping them on the dry side will help stimulate blooming.

Al

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 6:20PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

:-) Hey, Al!

Yeah, screen out the large pieces, and it should be just fine. Pre-soaking is a good idea.
After re-potting, make sure to keep the bark *moist* while the roots explore the new volume of mix.
In pure bark, or mostly bark, you will need to remember to fertilize for the most vital growth.

As far as watering...in this particular case, it depends on container size, mostly.
I have a Christmas Cactus in a small container (3 inches wide, 4 inches tall) in pure bark,
and I water it every 3 days on average - it is outdoors, too. I have a huge Christmas Cactus in
a large terra cotta pot that I water about once a week - also outdoors.

Don't be ashamed to use a kabob skewer to determine if there's moisture in the bottom of
the container :-)

Josh

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 6:32PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

If it wasn't for Josh, ALL my CC and TC would not look as well as they do. They are doing better than ever before!

Do have have Hoya's? They too thrive in this.

Thanks Josh!:-)

Mike

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 6:54PM
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lenle(4)

Thanks for the quick replies, Al, Josh & Mike!

Unfortunately, all I have is a kitchen strainer so I can't sift anything larger out. I do have a hammer... Maybe I can judiciously smash and resift to remove the too fine pieces and powder?

I don't have any hoyas either, though I am really optimistic to see how well the CC/EC/TG cacti take to an all bark mix. I may, just for comparative/curiosity's sake, keep a smaller EC in the gritty mix to compare against at a later date.

I do have to say how much I love this bark mulch...it took awhile to find, but it's been a hands down win for me in my gritty mix.

Thanks again :)

Jeni

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:34PM
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rina_

I hope Jeni won't mind if i ask a question about bark:
I have some composted pine bark fines. The bark is small, and I wonder if it's OK to use. It is abt.1/8".
Since it's so fine, what should I mix it with (if anything-I have floor dry & can get Turface too) - I have hoya & some TC (or EC or CC). Also, would it be good for orchids?
I think Canadian nickel is same size as US...
Thank you.

Rina

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:40PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you screen it over insect screen, it should be ok in the gritty mix, or use it by mixing it into the 5:1:1 mix. If it's well composted, I think I might consider using it as a slightly smaller fraction of the gritty mix. For instance maybe a 2:2:1 bark or a 3:3:2 bark.

Take care.

Al, who for tonight is the sore back insomniac. ;-)

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 4:19AM
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rina_

Al

Thank you, that's what I was hoping for since I have a lot of it...It smells so nice, it's like being in the forrest.

Noticed time you answered - take care of your back.

Rina

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 7:15AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Thanks. It's not really that bad. I had to help unload a very large insulating glass unit at the shop yesterday because all the guys were gone, and ended up pulling a little something or other. It was mildly uncomfortable, but I think it was the T-storm that woke me. Once up, I took a quick spin around the forums before heading back to bed & promptly falling back asleep. Too bad my alarm is as regular as clockwork, hmm? ;-) Two of my favorite fragrances I associate with working on plants are the smell of fresh conifer bark and rosemary. I LOVE working on the rosemary bonsai because of their fresh scent.

.... begging a pardon for the cross talk, Jeni.

Al

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 7:42AM
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rina_

Jeni

I used all kinds of things to sift at the beggining:
some trays from plants have mesh-like bottom, just have to find one with smaller holes;
some kitchen 'implements' may work;
the screen one would use on top of terrarium is great (I used old rusty one I found by the curbside...)

I even cut-up the large bark with pruners to get correct size.

Hope it's working out for you, let us know.

Rina

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 10:23AM
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rina_

Some of the things used to screen bark-turface-floor dry before I found proper size hardware cloth (some better than others):

1:this is used for pizza-holes are 5/16"
2:small sifter made from a plastic mesh used to protect roses-holes are 3/16"
3:this is used for playcourts (squares that 'click' together)-holes are 1/4"
4:nursery tray-holes are 7/16"

1:

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 10:55AM
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Enterotoxigenic00

Jeni,
That is soooo my DH with the hammer idea.
He was such a good guy to offer to smash the
larger bark pieces for me if I couldn't find
the finer size. I guess great minds really do
think alike. Thank goodness, I thought DH was
a loner on this idea!
Good luck. I love all the colors of cc and the
intensity of the ec.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:47AM
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lenle(4)

Here I am, back from introducing the hammer to the bark. To be honest, I'm not even sure there's a difference in the size. Before hammering away, I did try to find a screen that would work - while I found the 1/2" hardware cloth, I couldn't bring myself to spend the $12 to get it.

So this is the post-hammer product which hasn't been rescreened. Is it now okay to use?

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and help thus far!

Jeni

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 8:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

J - If you used screened Turface or DE and an appropriate size grit as the other 2/3 of your mix, the bark should work, even if the bark size isn't ideal. This is another illustration of how/why our soils will essentially take on the physical properties of the combination of ingredients that are closest in size. In your case, the Turface or DE + the grit, together, will be the larger and finer fraction of the soil. They will tend to surround the bark particles, rendering the bark's presence in the soil far less significant in its effect on drainage and aeration. Can you picture the smaller particles surrounding the bark? If you had 2 fractions of the soil that were larger than optimal, the effect on aeration and drainage would be more dramatic. In this case, since we don't worry about those properties in a well-made gritty mix, our concern would be having enough water retention because of the out sized bark, but as we have just seen, it shouldn't be an issue.

Even though the gritty mix is great at providing a healthy root environment, it's not immune to the effects of changes in particle size. For example, if you were to replace the bark fraction with an equal volume of peat, it would essentially undo the benefits the soil was intended to provide; so much so that it would be difficult to make a case for valuing it (with the peat fraction included) above any other soil you could buy off the shelf. This also illustrates why screening the fine particles out is so important to our realizing full benefit from the soil.

The idea that because your bark is larger than ideal it won't have a significant effect on drainage/aeration parallels what happens when we try to amend peaty soils or other soils based on fine particles with bark and perlite. Essentially, you can't change the gritty mix much by adding the large bark particles to 2 equal portions of finer ingredients, just as you can't significantly change aeration/drainage of other large fractions of fine ingredients by adding lesser fractions of bark or perlite. If you start with a large fraction of fine ingredients, you aren't going to significantly change their collective properties by amending with a smaller fraction of large particles.

Al

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 10:28AM
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lenle(4)

Al,
This particular batch is going to be bark only, though the rest that I have yet to sift will be for my gritty mix. I am glad to know it will work for it though, and thank you for taking the time to explain things. It's always appreciated!

Jeni

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 4:59PM
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lenle(4)

Success? I'm not sure if it's 1/2" screened or not, but I used a modified piece of plastic canvas (size 7, with four holes cut to make one large hole).

Also, it seems they're more "chip" than "chunk"... Will that be an issue for the bark only mix?

Jeni

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:40PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Jeni, I would say soak some bark, fill a container, and see how the bark settles
and approximately how long it takes to dry out. If the bark seems especially compact
in the pot, perhaps a portion of Perlite would be in order to displace some moisture and
to hold the medium open.

Josh

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:38AM
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lenle(4)

Josh,

Thank you yet again for your help... :)

I've filled a small terra cotta pot with the screened bark. It seems really fluffy...at one point I had enough water going into it that the bark actually rose. I think I'd be concerned that the medium wouldn't provide enough anchorage to keep the plant potted.

If a picture would help, I'll grab a better camera and snap one., but for now, what would I be looking for in an ideal scenario?

Jeni

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 8:06PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Oh, the roots will anchor and hold that bark together just fine. If the bark begins to rise,
slow the water flow until the excess drains. Watering slowly is best for saturation.

Josh

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 8:55PM
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lenle(4)

Fantastic! Thanks again!

Jeni

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:27PM
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