The Saga of the Pine Bark Fines

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I live in what is reputed to be the 4th largest city in the United States. And I cannot find pine bark fines.

Pine bark mulch, shredded. "Pine bark" mulch that is really old used tires. Fir bark nuggets (ReptiBark). Cedar bark, shredded. Red mulch. Black mulch. I-don't-know-what-mulch.

No pine bark fines.

Do I buy shredded pine bark and try to screen it? Lots of time & effort, lots of wasted bark, but I would get some quantities of what I want. And a lot of bark dust to breathe.

Do I purchase pine bark fines online? $30/2 cu.ft. or $10/quart, plus nasty shipping costs.

Buy a $200 chipper/shredder, when I've never used a power tool larger than an electric hand drill? (except my sewing machine.) Ask my ex-husband to help me? (He's probably never used one, either.) Ask a friendly neighborhood Home Depot or Lowes person to help me learn to use it, and hope there are no communication gaffes?

Do I continue using ReptiBark ($20/cu.ft.) and hope for the best?

Do I order pine bark mini-nuggets online ($3/2 cu.ft. plus shipping) and hope for the best?

This is disheartening, to say the least. Any advice is appreciated.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Would you be willing to check thrift shops for blenders and try that for making your own fines? I don't even know if it would work.

My only other thought would be to put some of the smallest pine bark in a a typical bag into a garbage pail and have a neighbor run a grass edger or line type trimmer in the pail, then strain to eliminate the larger chunks. I still don't know if that would work - never tried it.

Al mentioned running a mower over them. I can only presume they'd be on a tarp so you could sweep them up and into a container when they're small enough.

I couldn't find them out here either, if that's of any consolation to you. I just used the tiniest pieces from the bottom of each bag.

Good luck.

Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Don't forget white fir is also acceptable, if you can find that. I sympathize, I haven't found any either.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I think for now I will use the ReptiBark, since it is at least sized in 1/2 to 1" pieces. That's the smallest I've found. Mini-nuggets seem to be in the 1-2" range. I may add Perlite to help things.

I may, over the next couple of months, research wood chippers. I noticed Home Depot had some self-help videos you could watch. At least that might lessen the possibility of me losing fingers or other appendages to it. :(

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Buy the protective eye glasses before you try chipping!

Why not rent a chipper and see how you like it? They will show you how to use it and tell you the width of branches it can accommodate.

Caddo Mills, TX(Zone 8a)

I found mine at a local nursery when I lived in OKC and a small nursery in Wills Point in Texas. Try going to some of the smaller nurseries there and see if they carry them or if they are willing to order some for you.


Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Can you get Nature's Helper at Home Depot? This stuff is cheap (compared to potting soil) and works great not only in red clay but big outdoor pots as well. Very fast draining.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Oh, I was just there, and almost chose it! I went with cypress fines, instead. But I need to ask tapla about cypress. If he nixes it, I will definitely go back and get the Nature's Helper.

The next choice after that is renting a chipper and getting pine bark mulch. And yes, I have safety goggles, and will certainly use them. :-)

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Just don't stick your hand down below the safety line on the chipper chute. I found out firsthand - chipper $1400, finger surgery $5000. Lesson learned - don't work mad!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)


Use a sturdy thick branch to shove things down the chute.

hcm - ouch!

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Ouch! Geez. Glad you didn't lose any digits, hcm.
Well, Tapla nixed the cypress. I have to haul it back to the store. (shoulda kept it in my trunk!)

I'm going to go back and look more closely at the Nature's Helper. The pieces looked the right size. If it's pine or fir, I'll take it. If it's not, then I'm going to rent a chipper, and get about 10 cu.ft. of pine bark mulch, and chip away. I'd better go out and get a huge tub of some kind, because I don't want to rent a chipper 4 or 5 times this year. I want to get as much done before we get our normal 5 months of 90+ degree weather. Ugh.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Good luck. Let us know how well you do.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Yes ...... all the best to you, Gilraen!


Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I went to our local (30 miles ) Wal Mart yesterday hoping to find some Pine Fines, I had gotten some there a couple of years ago. They had many stacks of bags of various garden supplies, mulches, fert. etc. All tightly laid on top of each other on the pallets. No way to really figure out what was in the bag, labels , not able to read the labels. Tried to feel them but too tight. So didn't buy anything. Nobody in the yard.


Pittsburgh, PA(Zone 6a)

You might also ask for soil conditioner; that's what a local nursery here sells and recommends for mixing with the native soil when planting the trees they sell. It's very nice: thin, even, small chips of pine bark mixed with a just a little bit of sand. They sell it to condition the soil, but people buy it up by the truckload to use as mulch. It is a little bit pricier than just shredded pine bark, or pine nuggets, but worth the difference in quality. We've gotten some really nasty shredded pine bark mulch at Home Depot. It often has these lo-o-ng strappy pieces that are like leather; it's usually very wet and smelly, if you buy 10 bags then need a few more, you can be sure it won't match...sorry, didn't mean to turn this into a rant about mulch! ;-)
Ask for pine fines OR soil conditioner.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Home Depot (and other stores) sells soil conditioner called Nature's Helper. I buy it for tree, shrub, and perennial transplants and also use it for bed improvements. Also works great in large containers and does good in small containers (too fast draining in small pots for my liking). A 2 CF bag is less than $3.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

hcm, i've seen that, and considered it. But neither the bags nor the website list the contents.

I bought 5 bags of pine bark mulch from John Deere Landscaping, this morning. (hope it's decent quality.) But when I went to Home Depot to rent a chipper, all they had were the large ones -- $179/day and you have to tow it behind your car.

So I decided it might be worth it to buy a small one for $199. Then I find out they don't sell them in stores, only online.

So I have 5 bags that I can't use yet, unless I want to hand-separate out the pieces. [put major frownie here.]

(1) I can do some quick hand separation of the pine bark
(2) buy the Nature's Helper
(3) use either or both together
(4) buy a small chipper online, and wait

hmmm.... I need to go check the Sears website....

This message was edited Mar 6, 2010 6:42 PM

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Your method sounds expensive. Good luck in your endeavors.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I think i'm going to pass on chippers for now. the cheap ones don't work well, the others are expensive, and only one mentioned the size of the resulting chips -- about 1 inch or so. Too large!

So, I found somebody's list of nurseries they like in Houston, and am going to try 2 today. Thank goodness for sunday hours. I'm hoping they're large enough to have pine bark fines, or to order them for me.

Wish me happy hunting! I'm tired of running in circles.....

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Happy hunting! I hope you find what you need.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Jumping in late on this thread, I was going to mention that the end result of using a chipper might be about as large a chip as you are already starting with, and I was going to suggest you talk with the manufacturer about that.

My husband puts the bag or "catcher" on our lawnmower and runs over large leaves to shred them. I would think your lawn mower could handle bark mulch and do at least some cutting of them -- or would they also blow on through? Not sure.

I also had trouble finding pine bark fines. I eventually bought a bag of "Earth's Finest" Pine Bark Mulch. By poking a hole in a few bags of pine bark mulch by various companies, I was able to determine that this one was closest to being actual small shreds, rather than nuggets or chips, and maybe it would do for my purposes.

I'm a novice gardener so I won't try to evaluate if this stuff is helping in a big way or not, or if I've applied it to the right purposes. But I just wanted to tell you that I got this stuff at Lowe's and of all the pine bark mulches, this one was the smallest and "shreddiest."

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

thanks, both of you. I didnt' find fines today, but a place here said they'd try to order them. I'll let everyone know if i get them

in the meantime im going thru the mulch i got yesterday, and it's really not too bad. It has a good small-to-large piece ratio. I'm going through it bowl by bow. so far. it's a beautiful cool cloudy day here, so it's okay.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

You may have already checked this out. I buy EVERGREEN soil conditioner. I think it's the best. Your Lowe's may not carry it. I live in TN. One 3 dollar bag will fill 3 five gallon buckets. I also use it in my planting mix for trees, shrubs, roses, etc.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

What is in 'evergreen soil conditioner'?


Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Evergreen is the brand name. P.O.Box 4049, Muscle Shoals, AL. It is pure finely ground pine bark.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Cool - I was just curious.


Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Ok, unless I happen to run across some, I have given up looking for the actual labeled pine bark fines. The nursery never got back to me.

I still have regular pine bark, and intend to keep sorting it and saving the medium and large pieces for above-ground mulching on my containers, and using the finer stuff in my containers.

I have ordered coco coir, and will use it, probably equally with the sorted finer pine bark while I have it. When I've used up the sorted pine bark, I'll stick with coco coir as the "5" in my 5-1-1 mix. I'm still going to add *some* Miracle Gro potting mix for as long as I have that, too.

My garden is an eclectic mix of mixes. :-)
We'll see what happens....

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

It might be a quicker job if you bought a piece of wire fencing with holes just large enough to allow the size you want to fall through. If you know anyone with compost piles they should have the screening or you could borrow theirs.

Here's the clearest photo I could get of our compost screen. It would probably allow pieces too large for you so you'd want smaller holes.

Thumbnail by pirl
Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Hardware cloth (1/2 inch or 1/4 inch) nailed on a wooden frame should work. Use gloves when working with this material and tin snips.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Did you try one of the Lowe's stores in Houston?

That's the stuff I use.

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

kdwabbit I was in Wenatchee (130 miles) last week and found the Greens Mix at Lowes there. So bought 2 bags. From the outside all I can tell is that it is very fine. Haven't tried to use any yet as it has been rainy or cold. this morning 26 degrees. I will try to mix up some plant soil today. Yesterday in the gh I was transplanting tomatoes as long as my back would let me, about 1 1/2 hrs. still more to do.


Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

It is Evergreen soil conditioner. Not a mix but pure ground pine bark. It works great for me. I also use it in my landscape planting mix because my native soil is so poor.
I hope you got the right thing and it works well for you. :-)

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, everyone, for your input. I got some mesh screening this weekend in 1/2 and 1/4 inch sizes. I used the 1/2 inch size, and went through the rest of that big bag of pine bark tonight. So, so far I am happy with the result. I will look for the Greens mix, tho the Lowes online says the store nearest me doesn't have it. Of course, there's more than one nearby, anyway.

does the actual bag say pine bark fines? I ask because that Nature's -something- from farther up the thread never said what was in it, and I never found out. So I wonder about the greens mix, too.

Anyway, I am happy with what I have so far, and have some more things to plant - yellow squash, some sweet peppers, and a couple of organic potatoes on my windowsill, as well as new blueberry and blackberry bushes.

I got some smart pots that I'm going to use this weekend. I have high hopes for them.
Also I should probably get some -- um -- pH testers. Oh, yeah, I remembered another thread I want to start, too.

I also, to my delight, discovered heucheras. And there's even a forum for them! I've got to get some -- many of them if I can. Unfortunately they're not sold in Texas, so I will have to order them from a place in Oklahoma.

Anyway -- more plants, more fun, more beautiful things to look at and grow.

Grrrrrumblegrrrr, I wish I'd have discovered all this when my mother was still alive. She had a green thumb. :-(

This message was edited Mar 15, 2010 9:32 PM

This message was edited Mar 16, 2010 9:21 AM

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

The bag says 'EVERGREEN Soil Conditioner'. It is not the Greensmix. It is on the left.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Will heucheras survive Houston heat?

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Okay, I have been recommended Nature's Remedy, Evergreen Soil Mix, which is supposed to be pine bark fines, and Greensmix Soil Conditioner, which, along with Nature's Remedy, is I-don't-yet-know-what.

I will see what I can find. Thank you, everybody, for your recommendations!

Hcmcdole, you have a very valid question, and I have a partial answer.

"Generally, they will do best in light shade during at least the hottest part of the day. In full sun the foliage may discolor or die back during very hot spells in the summer."

But under PlantFiles, it will grow in both 9a and 9b. I'm in 9a.

Add: There is also this, from Terra Nova Nurseries: " Heucherella:
This rapidly growing group marries the exotic leaf colors of our Heuchera with the delicate flowers and beautiful cut leaves of Tiarella. Reports from the deep south and Texas are that the Heucherellas do very well in the high heat and humidity." Another site I saw said that people had trouble growing them outside of nurseries,... but I think they were in more northern latitudes.

So maybe I should try 2 of each... 1 each in full shade, and 1 each in partial shade.....

Should be interesting!

This message was edited Mar 16, 2010 9:51 AM

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I know I have problems with them in our heat and drought in shady conditions so I quit buying them. I would think Houston would have a much longer summer is why I asked. I've seen them growing wild on the mountains and little pockets on rock walls near waterfalls in TN. Seems to be a lot of negative marks for them on DG and about the web when it comes to surviving in the heat.

I've found that a lot of catalogs (on line and mail) will tell you how easy it is to grow almost anything. After a million failures it's hard to believe anything they say anymore.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Ok, point made. They're lovely, so I guess I'll give a couple of heucherellas a try and let the heuchera's go. We'll see.....

Harvard, IL(Zone 5a)

From what I've been reading, pine bark is going to become even harder to obtain, there's a severe shortage. There's some research going on at Virginia Tech to develop a new media using ground pine trees rather than bark. You can learn more here: It's still an ongoing project.

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks for the link. I'll look into it. Hopefully there won't be a coconut shortage, too.

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