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After MUCH, MUCH, MUCH searching (I'm sure finding the Holy Grail was easier) for an acceptable Pine Bark Fines product in Houston for Tapla's 5:1:1 container recipe, he has blessed off on the product at the Link below!
Evergreen Organic Soil Conditioner, available at Lowe's for $2.90/per 2 cu.ft. bag! (this is the online price)
My Lowes didn't carry it. I'm eager to hear how it works for you, especially if you put any into raised beds.
I did find a trade association that will steer us towards producers of fired clay pellets, not necessarily distributors:
Expanded Shale, Clay and Slate Institute
The RIGHT stuff, Double Grind Pine Bark can be found at:
Timber Solutions Soil Yard
14022 S. Gessner Road
Missouri City, Tx. 77489
Jimmy Quinn, Owner
Jimmy is out of the double grind pine bark until maybe March of 2014. But, trust me, IT'S THE RIGHT STUFF!
Tapla himself located it for me after I had searched Houston for over six months and was about to give up. It does a fabulous job of stretching the container and garden soil mixes. I have had great success and joy in working with this particular product.
I do sift mine through 1/2" hardware cloth to get the dust and small particles up to about nickel size to use for seed starting and container mixes. I either break down the larger chunks (which sliver easily like almonds when you hit them with the edge of the shovel) into smaller particles, or just toss the larger slivers into the raised bed garden.
It provide excellent drainage and aeration to the raised bed gardens and to the container mixes. My container mixes (after experimentation with Tapla's ratios) ended up being either 5 parts PBFs, 1 part peat (I used Miracle grow potting MIX as my peat component), and, 1 part perlite. In cases where I needed more water retention and less fast drainage, my ratio was 4:2:1 (increase the peat portion).
Since identifying the RIGHT stuff, I kept looking around and, woudn't you know it, the soil yard about a mile from my home has an equally good product I can use when I can't get to JImmy's.
Check out the double grind pine at Wayne's. He's on the corner of Hwy. 288S and the Beltway:
Wayne's Landscape Supply
2901 South Sam Houston Parkway East
Houston, TX 77047
The double grind pine bark really stretches your garden soil. And the plants really respond (almost immediately) to the aerated soil. The slivered pine bark provides structure to the soil and creates little pockets of oxygen in the soil. The plants grow exceptionally well in this mixture.
Godspeed, and Good Harvest!
P.S. Both places deliver. Since I don't wanna spend $ on the delivery fee, the first time I went to Jimmy's I lined the bed of a pickup truck I borrowed with my 5 gallon buckets. When the loader dumped the PBFs, most of it fell right into the buckets! EZ unloading, and just swept up the loose bits.
WARNING!!! Since there are "dust" particles in the pine bark fines (and you definitely want the "dust" particles), be sure to bring a TARP to cover your cargo, if you're picking it up yourself. Else, there'll be dust flying all over you, your truck, and the highway! Ask me how I know this...
#1 the RIGHT stuff on the pile at the yard. The chunks are drier, but sliver like almonds or snap between your fingers
#2 is a close up of the finer particles of the PBFs
#3 is in the truck bed, showing a good "dust" to larger chunks ratio. You want a fair amount of the "dust," in the mix. It becomes the "dirt" in the mix
#4 is the RIGHT stuff after I sifted it. Notice how moist it stays!
#5 is what the sifted PBFs look like -- it almost resembles MG Potting Mix before they started adding all the trash to it!
Working with the PBF mix is wonderful, cause it doesn't stick to your hands like real dirt!
Over 60 of them which were delivered last year to my cousin in College Station, GA. via another DGer passing through Houston on the way home to Georgia. She was pulling a half-empty trailer, and they made a rendezvous.
I've moved on to raised beds, but I still keep a couple buckets around. They still work well for water hogging veggies, LOL!
I'm impressed that you can keep the dust from a "ground" bark product. When I used nasty bark mulch from HD, there seemed to be much too much dust and fine stuff (along with dirt and twigs and who-knows-what). Even the "medium" mulch had a lot of very fine stuff, making me wonder what kind of screening, if any, they did!)
Then i went to a different product from Lowe's (fine bark NUGGETS). That was very clean in terms of dirt and twigs, and also seemed to be screened, there was so little dust.
I still screened out most of the big chunks (like over 1/2"). For seed starting in small cells, I also screened out stuff above 1/4" and kept mostly stuff that would pass a 1/4" screen fairly quickly.
A high % of my bagged "fine bark nuggets" were in the range 1/10" to a little over 1/4".
I did add "peat" (a local long-fiber commercial potting/seedling mix, not "powdered peat" Miracle Gro).
I'd say I added 10-20% of that peat mix to my screened bark.
I think you used one or two parts peat out of seven parts, so 14-29%. In addition, it sounds like you have more "fine stuff" in your screened double-grind bark than I have in my screened "fine bark nuggets". That adds up to a lot more fine stuff (smaller than 1/10" inch or maybe smaller than 1/16"?) than I used recently.
You might be smart, because I've been thinking that my mix is VERY fast draining, and maybe only marginally wicking for an application like EarthBuckets. I was thinking I might need a wick if I made "EarthBottles" from 2 liter soda bottles 8" tall and 4" in diameter.
It sure did not hold very much water! Maybe I went too far in my search for "plenty of air and FAST drainage".
Maybe next time I should leave in more "fine" bark fines, to get more water retention and wicking.
My few-fines "dry" blend seemed OK for starting seeds - when combined with my tendency to overwater frequently. It sure prevented damping off! The water ran right out and the surface dried quickly. Its nice that bark changes color slightly when dry, but rehydrates easily..
I should have added a layer of fine vermiculite on top when starting fine seeds: my petunia seeds fell into the cracks between bark nuggets and were never seen again!
What I WISH I could find i8n bark is elongated "shreds" and "chips" or "coarse fibers" instead of "nuggets" that are roughly spherical.
excellent rick. im finding ways to separate the pine nuggets/fines from the
dust,tiny particles,etc.. what i do now is dump 1/2 a bag in 5 gal bucket..fill with water
the particles fall to bottom of bucket..and i scoop up the nuggets that float..
my 1st few pots i hadnt screened/washed.. i had to much tiny stuff in the mix..
now this process seems to work for me ..with the desired pine nuggets..
and by "nuggets" i mean the larger pieces.. the pine bark i get from HD has a real
mix in the bags.. theres the dust/tiny stuff..but its a mix of "nuggets" and strips etc..
i dont know if they carry same in your area.. i like it..its a 2.5 cf bag..lowes is just 2cf
seems similar to each other though..but i get 1/2 cf more.. :)
i wish all a very merry,safe holidays !!!!!
I bet it differs from store to store, or maybe region to region.
What I find at HD is 2 cuft or 2.5 cuft of "mulch". From HD, it has always been dirty, dusty, bark of all sizes mixed with dirt, twigs and a few pebbles. It's usually damp and smelly, which suggests to me that it was damp (and anaerobic) long enough to ferment.
I wouldn't mind if the bark was somewhat composted (aerobically)! But inside the plastic bag, it's mostly anaerobic fermentation, and that creates organic acids and alcohols that aren't good for seedling roots!
It's OK for "mulch" as long as the dirt doesn't include weed seeds. I assume it is whatever they scraped up from logging areas: "logyard trash". If it was half the price of the Lowes stuff, it would be worth it as mulch, but the "nuggets" I got at Lowes were within 25-50 cents per bag of the HD stuff.
Anyway, the interesting thing to me is how much of the fine bark fines (like dust and small fibers) is desirable for different applications. In other words, how much water retention I should be trying for, and how much wicking I need.
I used to try for absolutely as much air in the mix as possible, and the fastest drainage I could create. I'm beginning to think that's dumb.
Or maybe i should say "I'm STARTING to learn not to overwater AS MUCH".
Just play with your peat or dust ratios until you get the water retention you need. I mix mine in several different ways, depending on what plant requires how much water. The water hogs get much more peat in the mix, and they love access to all the water they want.
Stuff that doesn't like wet roots get the 5:1:1 ratio, which ends up fast draining and aerobic, but with enough moisture retention to make those plants happy, too.
Just experiment with different ratios. And, do watch out for those chunky chunks, shredded, rope looking pieces, and too many thick twigs and sticks in your mix. That turns out to be a "not so good" deal when you end up taking out half of what you bought cause it's unusable for what you bought it for...
I just re read and must applaud tropicalnut for the water sorting method. Sounds great.
I get Kambark Pine Bark Mulch from Ace Hardware around here, and last couple bags have a lot of very fine particles. But they were ripped and only $2 each.
My Sanseveria absolutely loved this straight from the bag. When they have big chunks sometimes I pick those out for topdressing or orchids.