Pine Bark in soil mixes

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Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:24 pm

So after a year of experimenting with planting in PURE Turface I want to add in Pine bark for next year, and Turkey Grit. (Growing in Pure Turface with hard water has lead to PH problems). Now Turkey grit I can get no problem but what is stumping me is....

Where do we get hold of shredded pine bark? Or Composted pine bark. Do we sift out bags of pine mulch from garden centers? Even the smallest size pine mulch I've seen doesn't have much in the way of usable small particles?

How do all of you who use pine bark in your soil mixes do it, source it, all that.
Thank you for your advice
-Jay

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:33 pm

I purchase a product called Fafard Soil Conditioner, it comes in purple bags, fairly cheap $5 or $6. I purchase mine from a nursery supply place called BWI outside Apopka, Florida. I have seen the product at regular nurseries for slightly more.
We use equal amounts by volume of the Fafard, Turface and Lava. The Lava makes the mix lighter in weight for larger trees. For smaller trees you can use sifted Pea Gravel.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  coh on Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:40 pm

Jay,

What kinds of problems are you seeing? I assume you are using well water? How hard is it?

I use pine bark mulch as a component of my "growing out mix", but the sizes are much too large for what you want. I did find that I could sift out a small amount of "fines" that would be acceptable (I think) as a bonsai soil component...but that's a very small % of the total bag. Haven't been able to find anything better locally(have looked all over for the various "organic soil conditioners" but haven't found any). I know that Julian Adams (in Virginia) uses peat as his organic component - small pieces/chunks that you can get out of the bales of compressed peat available pretty much everywhere. His home-made soil is 70% or more turface (the other component is granite grit). Interested to hear what others have to say.

Chris

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Pine Bark in Soil Mixes

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:55 pm

First of all, I would never use peat moss in a soil mix in the Northeast. You are asking for root rot. Too cold, too much rain. If you can't find usable pine bark mulch, you will have to get friendly with someone who owns a shredder-chipper. Fortunately, there is one in our club.
Roberts Flower Supply sells a pretty fine grade of fir bark. Dunno about shipping. They will be at our orchid show October 1 & 2, so you could order some & pick it up there, Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville.
Iris

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:59 pm

Hi chris

The problem I had was indeed very hard well water. Turface tests out at about ph 6.5 and after a season of using my well water the Turface in my Beeches grow box is at 7.0. The well water sweetened the soil considerably. Now the boxwood LOVES it Very Happy , the Beech got Lime induced chlorosis. Mad 6.5 is at the very upper end of what American Beech can tolerate, The surprise for me was learning American Beech has strict acidity demands and is peculiar that way.

Turface alone holds a ton of water, so I'm looking to "cut" it with Turkey grit for better drainage, thats the easy part. I've thought of chopping up long strand sphagnum for an organic component but the bricks are expensive If you have a lot of trees in grow boxes. So I'm looking for an acidic organic alternative.

Luckily after reading about all the different soil PH's trees prefer I'm relieved to find that American Beech is a bit of a stand-alone in its need for acidity among broad leaf deciduous trees, a lot of my collection would be fine in Turface BUT there are the azaleas, Bougys, The Beech etc. that need that acidity. Oaks do too surprisingly, Its been a real eye opener. Even japanese Beech is not as particular with acidity as American Beech is.

So yes the rainwater cistern will be on the deck next year! ugh. Damnded Beeches Laughing

-Jay

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:01 pm

Iris-

I was going to chop long stand sphagnum peat up and mix it it, are you referring to the sphagnum peat such as we find in the big compressed bails, I wouldn't have used that. It just winds up floating away anyway.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  coh on Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:20 pm

The stuff Julian uses is the regular compressed peat. He told me that he basically breaks chunks out of the bale and screens it, keeping the size he wants. I've tried this and the yield is very low, but you do get some useable stuff - small pieces of compressed peat, not loose peat which would float away. In his mix the peat component is 10% or less, I don't see how that would be a problem anywhere including the northeast. I picked up a large chinese quince from him earlier in the year and it's potted in his mix and doing very well. I don't expect any problems during the winter.

If you're looking to get large quantities of bark pieces that are basically the same size as the turface particles, good luck! I don't know where you're going to find that but please let me know if you do.

Chris

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Neil Jaeger on Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:04 pm

Hey Jay, this was the topic of our last meeting at the Buffalo Bonsai Society and one of the members did alittle show on what to use and how to make it. But of course there is no perfect soil for all trees so you just have to try what works for you. I dont know if it says in the artical but Paul (the speaker) went to the goodwill and bought a blender and he said he buys aged pine bark and puts it in till it breaks down better. Here is the artical from our news letter.

http://buffalobonsaisociety.com/Images%20for%20Print/PrinterFriendlPgs/Sept11Newsletter.pdf


Neil

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:46 pm

You know whats funny guys is...

I have done BOTH of these things, sifted entire bales of canadian sphagnum and ruined my wifes blender chopping pine bark nuggets. Very Happy

I didn't have any horticultural trouble with the Sphagnum peat but I did find for the first few waterings in, the top pieces say up to an inch down would float away.

As for the ruined blender? Oh well the things we do for our trees. I just chopped up some Long strand Sphagnum and found I could work it down pretty quickly, just like mincing an onion. I PH tested it a 5.5, I'll let it soak till tomorrow then re-test it. But I think it has promise. And Chris If I do run into something suitable (and affordable) in a roughly usable size I'll let you know.

Oh yes, anyone ever run into shredded coconut hulls, not Husks, hulls, saw that the other day at a nursery near me and thought at first it was crushed bark. Looked good, right size..cheap.
-Jay


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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Jesse McMahon on Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:08 am

this year i've had ready access to the product billy mentioned. (fafard soil conditioner. the one i get here is an organic product.) it tends to yield a good percentage of 'bonsai soil' sized particles and then the larger stuff i just put into growing on mixes or larger pots. the fines go in small pots or flowerbeds. i suppose you could treat the larger chunks with the food processor/blender to get a higher yield of bits in the size range you want. ultimately, having a wood chipper, i want to get into making my own composted bark and maybe even taking the hammer attachment to the cheap bags of red lava with the big chunky pieces. but i digress...good luck on finding a useable option!

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Brett Summers on Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:49 am

Hi Jay,
Mucking around with 100% inorganic mixes I found some similar issues to you. They are often less stable when it comes to pH than organic soils and need ALOT of fertiliser. I have started to head back to using some organics in my mixes. Akadama seems to be one that is not overly affected by this at 100%
After searching over the years for elusive pine bark in a usable size I settled with general nursery potting mix and sift out the fines (and any larger pieces if necessary).
Not sure it is specifically pine bark but it works great for me.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Marty Weiser on Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:58 am

In the Spokane area and I believe most of the NW USA we are going away from bark or other organic components in our soil mix. I have seen root rot issues with my lava & bark mix which is why I am changing and this in a climate with 20" (50 cm) of precipitation per year. I and many of the IEBS club members are using lava as our major ingredient, pumice as the secondary, and akadama as the third. Lava is the heavy component in this mix. I know folks who have gone to a mix of pumice and akadama - much easier on tools when repotting.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Eastern Bonsai on Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:10 am

Hello All,

Interesting topic of debate. However, not to sure I would attempt to use a Blender or Meat Grinder to reduce particle size. Shocked Does anyone know if pumice retains water, being that it is porous, and could this lead to root rot as well? What is the advantage of pumice vs. river pebbles other than being lightweight?

Thanks,
Abe

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  coh on Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:33 am

Jay, I wonder what % of sphagnum (or whatever component you use) you'll have to use to overcome the effect of the turface? At least for the beech...should be interesting. Also interesting that the guy who did the Buffalo presentation uses peat moss as a major component of his basic mix. Neil, did he specify what type he uses? The same baled/compressed peat we've been talking about, or something else?

Unfortunately it is almost impossible to find pumice around here. It's supposedly great for root growth and many people use it for newly collected trees. I've got a collected spruce that is in 100% pumice and was told to pretty much water it everyday (during the summer), regardless. It looks to retain a fair amount of water and I thought it might be staying too wet, but I am seeing strong root growth and the tree looks good.

Chris

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:10 am

I have just taken the plunge and e-mailed Harry Harrington himself to ask about overcoming Ph issues with Inorganics.

Last year I sifted potting soil to get at the bark within, unfortunately some of the bags I used this spring contained the spores for root rot. I lost an Azalea and a Red Maple (Rubrum) because of this. I then researched Potting soil and found several studies that confirmed that phytophthora root rot spores are present in nearly 30% of all bagged potting soils. I will not sift potting soil again. Lesson learned, its a dangerous gamble. In fact it was this loss that lead me to try pure inorganic.

Around here I have seen crushed brick, which I have read is similar horticulturally to lava rock. Lava and brick and Turface all have a natural tendency to attract calcium and magnesium cations and hold on to them. so these components when watered with hard water will become more alkaline and thus you have the problem I had with my Beeches.

I was just out in the Barn playing with soil mixes and found that chopped Long-strand sphagnum mixed 1/3 to granite and Turface did not appreciably lower my soil PH.

It may take something like sifted sphagnum peat as a component to get down THAT low. Into the 5-6 range. I think when we make the shift to pure inorganic with Bonsai we are entering almost into a world nearing hydroponics. It may be an issue of controlling ambient soil PH through tricks like White vinegar in the water once a month, avoiding Hard water, Providing better drainage than just straight up Turface so salts accumulated in the soil can be better flushed out. I hope Harry writes back (I hear he does when asked questions) I'm such a huge fan of his.
-Jay

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Marty Weiser on Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:44 pm

I am currently doing a porosity study on as many different inorganic bonsai components as I can get my hands on using a procedure similar to that in a recent issue of International Bonsai. I hope to publish the results so I won't go into all of the details. However, I found that pumice and lava have very similar porosity/water retention and they definitely have higher porosity than akadama.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:52 pm

I heard back from Harry Harrington YAY!

he simply advises the use of ericaceous fertilizers and the occasional use of distilled vinegar in a mix of one part to 50 parts clean water to help maintain lower soil PH.

Later on today I'm going to experiment with what PH changes I notice when I add mir-acid and Vinegar (with his dilution rate) individually to Pure turface and see what we get I'll check back in with results.
-jay

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:58 pm

Does anyone know if pumice retains water, being that it is porous, and could this lead to root rot as well? What is the advantage of pumice vs. river pebbles other than being lightweight?


Lava/Pumice having a rougher surface than would retain more water that river pebbles, but I haven't noticed a root rot problem using it.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Alain Bertrand on Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:57 pm

What is interesting for the roots is the porosity space. More porosity means more space to get more air with the same amount of water, or more water with same amount or air. If your goal is best productivity, it is thus better to use a substrate with maximum porosity, the best being aeroponics where there is no substrate and where roots have 100% air with an unlimited amount of avaiblable water...as long as the pump works Wink

For a bonsai, I feel it is not so important. Water restriction to get smaller needles, leaves or internodes is part of the game.

My measures give me a slightly higher porosity for lava rock (between 60 and 65 %) than with pumice (between 55 and 60).

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:59 pm

Results of my experiments are as follows and were very interesting:

My water PH=6
Turface with my tap water (hard well water) PH=6.5
Turface with fish/seaweed emulsion properly diluted PH=7
Turface with 1Tbsp white vinegar per gallon water PH=5.0-5.5
Turface with 2Tbsp white vinegar per gallon water PH=4.0-4.5
the reason you see a range with the PH is its tricky to get a good reading out of a medium thats as loose as Turface

So as Mr Harrington has noted a dilution of white vinegar certainly helps bring soil back into acidity when watered in over inorganic soil.
I have since watered my Beeches with the 1 tbsp dilution and have been able to bring the PH back down to 6.5 from a starting PH of about 7.2

At least thats closer to where they should be and may make my chelated Iron at least available to the tree, 6.5 is still on the high side for an American Beech but Id rather go slow and easy. How long will that soil acidity last? well with rainwater only now hopefully a month which is the recommended application interval, we'll see.

Have to go clean up the science experiment in the barn now.
-jay

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  kenaniah on Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:22 pm

hey gang, if you are interested in pine bark still, I found a place that sells it cheap (of course if you're not close, shipping would be painful). They have multiple locations around the Ohio/northern KY area. I get their premium mini-pine bark and 90% of it is smaller than 1/4" (goes through that screen for me. yes, there are fines in it, but the vast majority of it is usable. The 2 cubic foot bags are about $3.40 if you pick them up locally. I have had to go to Florence, KY for work, so I just drove and picked up a bunch of bags for myself and some of my club members.

Ohio Mulch Premium Mini Pine Bark (just do a google search for Ohio Mulch and go to their products, to mulch and then pine bark and you should see it listed there).
The description on their website says "Mini Pine Fines are very small, fingernail-size pieces of pine bark that are brownish in color and used primarily as a soil amendment."... I have found that the average sizes are pinky-fingernail sized if not smaller, which works perfectly for me.

I'm a new member to this forum, so I can't post external links for a few days yet, so if you would like to see a picture of the sifted results in my hand (for scale), please let me know and I can email it to you (or if someone else wants to post it for me, I can send them the URL for my Picasa picture of it). Very Happy


- michael

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  drgonzo on Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:07 am

So this is a step in the right direction. We know now that small pine bark is available as a soil amendment, buy that stuff rather than clumsily sifting out huge bags of mulch. So my trick will be finding a specialty nursery near me that might have something like that and I think I know where to begin. Thanks for that heads up Kenaniah.

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  lordy on Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:31 pm

Here a bit north of Washington DC I can get at many garden supply stores a 2 cubic foot bag of Shredded Pine Bark rather than Nuggets. I sift it over my wheelbarrow using a square sifter of 1/2" mesh, which pulls out the chunks and they go into the flowerbeds. Then I use my 1/4" sifter and what goes thru that (about two 5-gallon buckets full) is what I use. I tried running the leftover thru the blender once. It powdered it or did nothing, no in between. Luckily I got the blender at a yardsale for $3 so now it sits under my workbench waiting for me to do something with it...

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Wed Sep 14, 2011 6:43 pm

Fafard says these three retailer have their products in the DC area. Just go to Fafard's website and put in your zip code.

Annandale Garden Center
6673 Little River Tpke
Annandale, VA, 22003
Phone: 703-981-6505
Fax:
Distance: 10.43 miles
longitude: -77.2128
latitude: 38.8358

Holly, Woods & Vines
8453 Richmond Hwy.
Alexandria , VA , 22309
Phone: 703-799-1607
Fax:
Distance: 13.84 miles
longitude: -77.1719
latitude: 38.7223

Behnke Nurserie
11300 Baltimore Ave
Beltsville, MD, 20705
Phone: 301-937-1100
Fax:
Distance: 13.22 miles

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

Post  Oliver Muscio on Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:07 pm

Billy,
Maybe I am looking in the wrong place, but on the Fafard's web site (http://www.fafard.com/Products.aspx) under "Products"--"Soil Amendments", I couldn't find any pine bark amendments. They had top soil, compost, manure, perlite, and peat moss. They also had a number of potting mixes, which seem to be composed of 50% or more peat moss, with pine bark making up much of the remainder. I'm not sure if you found another product that I didn't see on the product listings...
Oliver

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Re: Pine Bark in soil mixes

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