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organic_wonderful

Tapla - Is fully composted bark ok for the 5-1-1 mix?

organic_wonderful
13 years ago

I tried posting this with the image in my 'please critique my potting mix' thread, but it wasn't working, so sorry about having to open a new thread.

Anyway, if you're reading this, tapla, I just received my composted bark through the post. After taking a look at it (take a look at the photo by visiting the photobucket link below), it look like it might be too 'fine', as it's fully and not partially composted. So, I was wondering if you can tell me if this is still okay to use? I really hope I haven't wasted all that money for nothing!

Thanks in advance!

http://i1103.photobucket.com/albums/g462/jonnyautoenfield/SDC10758.jpg

Comments (67)

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey, Organic, I'd go with the 'fine' grade Orchid Bark, personally.

    Otherwise, I'd do what Al suggested....use the first product, and omit the peat moss.


    Josh

  • meyermike_1micha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just remember that adding more fines is going to increase your chances for more water retention, and I hate to say, the big possibility of fungus gnats.

    If you live in an area where it rains quite a bit, or plan on growing plants brought indoors, then I would reconsider doing a 5.2.1. Just my personal experience.

    Good luck

    Jodi has expressed everything to the tee. I couldn't agree with her more! Thanks Jodi

    Mike

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  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Generally speaking, orchid bark in a coarse grade would be too large for our purposes. A medium grade or fine grade would be better, I think.

    And keep in mind that unless there's something included in a photo to help give you perspective on size, like a ruler or a coin, you really can't make an accurate determination.

    This is what a handful of my Gritty Mix rendition looks like...
    {{gwi:1304}}

    These are the ingredients I use to build my Gritty Mix... from top left, moving clockwise... turface, perlite, fir bark, and granite chips... there's a quarter in the picture for size reference...
    {{gwi:4845}}

    This is a Sans, potted in my rendition of the Gritty Mix... the pot is about an 8" unglazed terra cotta pot...
    {{gwi:8876}}

    Quite honestly, I think if you go with a coarse grade of orchid bark, it's going to be too big to suit your purposes. Remember, orchids are epiphytes, for the most part, and really only need the bark for support of the plant, to keep it in the pot. So, a coarse grade would be large chunks. A fine grade may be a bit small. A medium grade would be just about perfect, if you can get it... but regardless which grade you choose, you're still going to have to screen it.

    Don't be too impatient, and end up with the wrong things. Take a little time to research, look around, learn... you'll be glad you did.

    I'll bet I reread Al's original article at least 6 times before it finally began to sink in... and I frequently go back and read again to refresh my memory. I also check and re-check the recipes... to be sure I don't get them mixed up.

    Thanks, Mike... just trying to be helpful. :-) I know how it was when I first began! It's very helpful to have a variety of people who use the mixes show the ingredients they use, and describe their experiences.

    All I'm saying is... weigh your options carefully, and don't be in too big of a hurry. It pays to be patient, and make sure you get the right items.

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Howdy, Jodi ;-)
    Not to muddy the waters further, but even the 'fine' grade Orchid Bark (that I've seen) isn't quite fine enough....
    not even for the 5-1-1, and certainly not for the Gritty Mix proper. For the 5-1-1, you'd want to remove the largest of the particles, and for the Gritty, you'd want to remove both the largest and the finest particles.

    It definitely pays to be patient and to assemble the right ingredients....and when a suitable bark is procured,
    buy as much of it as possible!


    Josh

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That's what I was thinking, too, Josh... when I do locate the right bulk bark, I'm gonna grab as much as I can afford right off the bat... just in case. I've seen batches vary, and it's consistency we want. I wonder how comical that will look... a little Ford Escort wagon, loaded to the gills with bags of bark! ;-)

    I think we have to take into consideration that there's no exact standard for size when it comes to bark/mulch products the world over. Plus, every commercial/retail outlet or grower can use a different mix, different sized bark, etc...

    The best way to handle it, if you possibly can, is to personally go there and check out the bark for yourself. I realize that's not always possible, but it's nice when you can see it and hold it in your hand before spending money on it!

  • meyermike_1micha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Quite funny Jodik!!lololol

    That with the Dogs head hanging out of the windows drooling on a joy ride in a car full of bark..lolol I can see it!

    Josh: Great points made!

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for the help guy.

    I'm a bit confused, if I want to screen out the smallest and the largest bark fragments, what two sized sieves should I use?

    I'm going to try the fine grade bark first.

  • 19juju54
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi,
    I have collected bags of fir Bark Mulch - 0 to 3/8" -very small chunks with a lot of fines and Small Bark - 3/8" to 3/4" chunks for making up 5:1:1. Does anyone have an opinion as to which would be better? Or...does anyone know if there are pics on the forum of an optimal bark size for the 5:1:1?
    Thanks!
    Julie

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    ^ don't you use the same size bark for the gritty mx as the 5-1-1 (like shown in the photo above in this thread)?

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Organic, for the 5-1-1:
    use a 1/2 inch or 3/8 inch sieve to screen out the largest particles.

    The Gritty Mix is slightly more refined:
    use insect screen (1/16 inch) to remove the finest particles,
    and use a 1/4 inch screen to remove the largest particles.
    For the Gritty Mix, you want to remove the fine bark dust.


    Josh

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Oh, I see, so for the 511 mix you don't bother sieving out the finer particles with a fine sieve. I get it now.

    I am still curious though, after the photo of that plant was posted by jodik. Tapla said the gritty mix was for 'woody' plants that stay in their container for a number of years. That doesn't look very lignified, so I'm assuming it's in the gritty mix rather than the 511 mix because it's staying in the medium for a number of years instead of just a short period of time?

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Organic, the Gritty Mix holds less moisture than the 5-1-1, so it's excellent for houseplants and bulbs
    that might spend time indoors, especially during cold Winters when containers don't dry out as readily.

    The finer particles in the 5-1-1 help retain moisture for plants growing outdoors, particularly during the
    warm Summer months/growing season when moisture demands are higher.


    Josh

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The Gritty Mix doesn't contain peat, so it's a little more durable and longer lasting than the 511. I like to think in terms of using the Gritty Mix for houseplants, or plants that will stay in the same mix for 2-3 years, perhaps... and the 511 would be more for growing shorter term plantings, like tomatoes or annuals, etc. Or... another way to look at it is... the 511 is more for outdoor use, and the Gritty Mix is more for indoor use, the two environments being what they are.

    The 511 is more moisture retentive than the Gritty Mix. It's designed more for a single season in an outdoor environment... whereas the Gritty Mix dries out faster, and is designed more for an indoor environment where plants will be kept in the same medium for at least 1-2 years before re-potting... possibly even longer.

    However... it's the concept of a more durable, free/fast draining medium that's most important to understand. And if we understand what attributes each ingredient brings to the mix we're using, we could easily interchange ingredients, or change ratios of ingredients to suit our individual purposes or environments or plants... like I do.

    Until you've become familiar with using the mediums, though, I would stick with the recommended recipes and ratios. There is a little adjustment you will need to make in watering... you are in total control of moisture and nutritional needs... which is a good thing. But until you're familiar with what you're doing, I would definitely use the recipes as written.

    I grow all my bulbs and houseplants in the Gritty Mix. I do make slight adjustments to the ratio of ingredients, or the screening, to suit my own needs, my environment being what it is. For example, you can see some smaller particles in some of my photos... and that's because I've adjusted the moisture retention for that pot/plant by leaving some smaller particles in that batch. If I need more moisture to stay for a bit longer, I might even throw a handful of regular bagged potting soil into a batch. Normally, though, I just use more turface than granite and perlite... turface holds more moisture.

    Keep in mind, though, that I've been doing this for a long time. I know what I need for each plant type, and how it relates to my environment, which is different than anyone else's. Don't let what I do confuse you. Learn to use the recipes as written before you start tweaking them.

    Josh is correct... I needed a medium that would dry out faster than the average bagged soil. My bulbs were suffering, their roots going through bouts of death and regeneration due to the total saturation of the soil, and how long it stayed wet. They were suffocating from lack of oxygen, and drowning in all that moisture. They were literally rotting. I needed a medium that would perform as a medium should. The Gritty Mix gives me exactly what I need... lots of aeration, moisture I can better control, faster drying time... my bulbs love it!

    The trick, it seems, is to locate the ingredients with which to build the mediums. Once you've got everything, and you've got the concept, you're on your way! :-)

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    OW - I tend to use the 5:1:1 mix for all my short term plantings. Those would be the display containers I put together each spring & turn into the compost pile in the fall. Veggies also fall into that category. I use the gritty mix for all my houseplants, including cacti & succulents, and all other plant material I'd be likely to have in the same soil for more than a single season, which includes all the trees & shrubs I grow on as future bonsai.

    Al

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I understand, thanks.

    Can I ask though, hypothetically if you could grow a tomato plant as a bonsai plant (not sure if this is possible), for a number of years, would I be right in saying that although it's a vegetable, it would be better in the gritty mix?

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yes - I would say that's true - it's what I would do, anyway. I've grown lots of plants similar in structure to tomatoes as bonsai - Coleus, snapdragon, Impatiens, artillery plant (Pilea) ..... others, all in the gritty mix.

    So far, in the thousands of different plants I've grown, I've really only found one plant that seems to prefer the 5:1:1 mix over the gritty mix, and I have no idea why that might be true. The plant is Scilla violacia or leopard lily. Everything else I've had in the gritty mix has always done noticeably better than in the 5:1:1 mix or other heavier soils.

    Al

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you, Al! You've just inadvertently answered a question and solved an issue that's been plaguing me for a while, now! I have a pot of Ledebouria that's not doing as well as I'd like, and I've got it in the Gritty Mix. I think it may require a re-potting using a slightly different mix. :-)

  • jojosplants
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    They like a little more water than most succulents. :-)

  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Today I picked up half a yard of double ground pine bark similar to the photo up thread. I wish it wasn't quite so fine, but my strategy is to elimate the peat, and use 2 parts perlite to 5 parts bark. I'm also going to try the drainage experiment that Al suggested to Julie in the "Sphagnum peat in 5:1:1" thread, using a sample of the mix in a 12 oz. cup, just to make sure it's draining properly.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It's so cool to see you guys understanding the concepts of aeration/drainage/PWTs and putting things together to make it work for you. It's not only the knowledge that you're acquiring that will quickly propel you ahead of those stuck in a rut, but your take charge way of approaching an issue ranks right up there as one of your most valuable assets.

    There is precious little in the field of horticulture that hasn't changed dramatically in the last 20 years - even in the last 10 years. Long held beliefs and methods have been scrapped and disproved, replaced with sound scientific reasoning and practices; and that's not a brash or unusual statement by any stretch. It's a good bet that if your approach to growing hasn't changed dramatically in the last 10-20 years, there is a TON of room for improvement. We need only look at the advances in the sciences related to things like medicine, air travel, automobiles, communications ..... to see that there is very little that remains untouched by the passing of time. When someone points out that people have been growing in peat-based soils for 100 years with no problems (debatable), I muse to myself that the same people were also utilizing horses or shank's mare as the premier mode of transport 100 years ago - equally absent problems; yet, we seem to have abandoned equine transport and the telegraph in favor of automobiles, planes and email.

    Once again I'll tip my hat to those here who have set themselves toward improving their skills and there effort:reward ratio. It's fun to be around and visiting with you guys!

    {{gwi:4771}}

    Al

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I would actually say the bark I got today (sorry the other post was mean to go in here, doh!), looks pretty similar to the bark shown as an example above by jodiq.

    What do you guys think?

    {{gwi:8877}}

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'll just use it and hope for the best.

    Hope this works!

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It was late last night & I went back up the thread to try to determine which soil you were making. By it's appearance in the pic, and unless there is a considerable additional fraction of fines (for use in the 5:1:1 mix) not seen in the pic, it looks to be too large for either soil.

    Al

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    ^ you mean the bark in the new photo i.e. this one below, is too large?

    If so I feel like I'm just about ready to give up as I've exhausted all my options. To me it looks pretty similar to the bark in the photo you posted, but I guess I must be wrong.

    {{gwi:8877}}

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sorry I must sound like a broken record. I'm just so keen to get the ball rolling but I really don't know how I'm going to get what I need. I feel frustrated after I wasted all the money on the bark for the second time only to find that it's too big.

    pooh.

  • jojosplants
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi OW,
    Sometimes it's hard to tell from a picture. Can you get another picture taken with a handful scattered Just a tiny bit above a tape measure so we can see the size a little better? Your coin looks different than what were used to also, so that makes it a little hard to tell.

    Don't worry, it will come together. :-)

    JoJo

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sorry, here it is:

    {{gwi:8878}}

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'll try and get a photo with a ruler if I can find one.

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey, Organic, sieve some of that bark and see how it looks.

    At the moment, the particles are large - and you'll want to remove the yellow colored sapwood...
    which I refer to as "matchsticks." You want to keep the percentage of sapwood low in your mix.

    The bark you have is almost suitable for the 5-1-1.


    Josh

  • ykerzner
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Per one of your posts from last Friday, organic_wonderful, you may have to sieve the bark for the 5:1:1 depending on what percentage of it is smaller than 1/8" (30 mm). I sift large bags of pine bark mulch to get the fines needed, and on a good day 50 % of what goes through the 1/4" screen will be 1/16"-sized. That's too much for the 5:1:1 mix and the first shrub I potted in it had to be repotted in something more like 5:1 (bark:perlite) after it nearly died because the mix never dried out. (Then again it was winter.)

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Can someone just confirm for me, should I be using a 1/4" sieve?

    I'm confused as people seem to be recommending different sizes?

    I really hope someone is able to answer this for me. Thanks, OW.

  • jojosplants
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi OW~
    I'm so sorry this has been missed! I can't belive we didn't see your question.

    Here is a quote of Al from another thread..

    ""Best: For the 5:1:1 mix, fine is dust to dime-size. ""

    Yes, you can use 1/4" and I think some have even used 1/2" but not positive on that. A dime is about a 1/2". At least ours.

    Hopefully now that this is bumped back up to the top Al will see it and correct me if i'm wrong. :)

    I have used 1/4" with great results, and 1/2".

    JoJo

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Organic,
    I think JoJo is correct:
    You can use a 1/4 inch sieve or a 1/2 inch sieve for the 5-1-1 mix (to screen the bark).
    If you go with the 1/2 inch, you'll have a lot more material to work with.

    Josh

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks guys. I've got a riddle that's approximately 8mm in size, so I'll try that today. I'll try and start a grow diary to compare the results to commercial (control) media, such as the John Arthur Bowers Multipurpose compost with added John Innes, since I know for a fact that this compost has been shown to give consistently good results here in the UK. If the 5-1-1 mix works better than this medium then I will know it's worth using.

    I just wish there was somewhere on this site I could post a grow diary. Oh well.

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Okay, here's a photo of what the new bark looks like when put through a 1/4" riddle (I've discarded what didn't go through). Can you tell me if it looks usable?

    Hopefully I've finally sorted it now! I'd really appreciate it if you guys could give me the thumbs up.

    {{gwi:8879}}

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It looks GREAT, but you can use a larger mesh screen (12 mm). Good luck. You're going to limit the additional fine particulates to less than 1/6 of the o/a mix (for best results)?

    Al

  • jojosplants
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It looks Good! Just like what i'm using! :-) I spent a good part of my night sifting. Be sure and remember to share pictures later of your plants. ;-)
    JoJo

  • jodik_gw
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I never really thought about it before... but for our friends from other areas of the globe, it might be nice to have a conversion chart from standard to metric... for screen sizes, bark sizes, etc...

    I'm probably not the best person to convert it, though... being so terrible at math and numbers! ;-)

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    You have no idea how happy and relieved I am that you've given it the okay!

    Thanks you guys!

  • jbackman
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sorry to hi-jack your thread OW, but I thought that since I'm in UK as well we could share resources (and I could get some feedback).

    I bought Melcourt Composted Fine Bark off eBay for �3.99 for 75 litres.

    Here it is "raw": (sorry for the crap picture quality, only had my mobile phone camera)
    {{gwi:8880}}

    And here it is after sifting out the "dust":
    {{gwi:8881}}

    And here is the "dust":
    {{gwi:8882}}

    Comments? Usable? Should I or should I not add peat (or part of the "dust")?

    BTW, first time posting so THANK YOU to all who share their knowledge here and especially Al (tapla) who not only knows a great deal but know how to write and explain things in a fantastic way.

  • filix
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have used both 1/2 and 1/4". They both seem to work fine. Lately I have been useing 1/4 to screen, I think the 1/2" is just a tad on the large size. But if you make the 511 and don't add the peat, that may change the amount of dolomite lime you add? Al?

  • organic_wonderful
    Original Author
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    jbackman I'm not an expert but it still looks to large.

    If you decide to buy more, I got my bark from easyorchids.co.uk (it was the fine bark, not the coarse). It was fairly reasonably priced, so I would recommend it.

  • meyermike_1micha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ok. I hate to ask this, but where are you all getting your screens those sizes and what do they look like? Are they plastic or fencing material like chicken wire? Thank you!

    I ask because a few on my friends need to know, and by the way, nice looking bark!:-0)

    Great work

    Mike

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Jback - the larger fraction looks pretty good for the gritty, & you prolly could have used the original 'as is' for the 5:1:1.

    Al

  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I just bought some screen at Lowe's. It's called Hardware Cloth, and comes in rolls of various widths and lengths. There is the plastic (pvc) kind and the galvanized wire kind. I got the galvanized. Two common sizes are 1/4" and 1/2". I would say you could get it at most big box stores or hardware stores.

  • jojosplants
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Some feed stores carry Hardware cloth too. It's popular for bird/poultry cages.

    JoJo

  • jbackman
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for the answers.

    OW, I was looking at the bark from easyorchids but I don't think they mentioned the size, so I didn't dare to get some. But now that I've seen yours and what it looks like it seems like a good one.

    Al, that's great to hear, would you still add peat if I were using it as is or just add perlite?

    Thanks again.

  • meyermike_1micha
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks everyone. I have never used these cloths myself since I use Bonsai sifting trays for my gritty mix and nothing for my 5.1.1 mix. I appreciate it.

    By the way Jojo, I am not sure if you are getting my e-mails, but someone at the citrus forum was asking your help.

    Take care

    Mike

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It's hard to say, Bjack. I was thinking about that when I posted before & couldn't get a good enough sense of the o/a texture to say one way or the other.

    Mike - hardware cloth isn't really cloth. It's wire mesh, similar to what your bonsai screens are made of.

    Al

    Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of hdwe cloth

  • kathycakes
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Everyone - I notice there hasn't been any posts here for a year so hope Al, Josh, or any of the rest of you tremendously educated and experienced 5-1-1ers are still monitoring it. Even after reading all the above posts twice, I'm still somewhat confused, I guess because of the different "size" examples. I am currently sifting pine mulch (not composted) through a bug screen to remove probably 85-90% of the "dust." I'm then screening the results of that through a 1/2" screen and removing any "threads" or other large yet skinny sticks. Does this sound right, or should I be leaving in more of the dust for the 5-1-1? Thanks as always! Kathy