Boiling bark

treebeard55

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Yes, that's what I'm considering: boiling bark before I use it in my potting mix.

Composted pine bark is not available to me except by mail-order, and our budget is limited right now. My most practical option is to buy the finest-cut bark mulch at Lowe's, and then sift out the particles that are too small (into the ground) or too big (into flower beds for -- yes, mulch!)

But that bark is not composted. When I use it, I often see, sooner or later, the hyphae of breakdown fungi appearing on the bark particles. Composting is going on in my pot!

I've never seen any damage to my trees. But, unless I've got it wrong, the composting process pulls nitrogen that would otherwise be going to the living trees.

One of those either-brilliant-or-balmy ideas popped into my head this afternoon. Why not boil the bark first? Might that speed up the breakdown process, so that the composting fungi and related microbeasties don't have as much to do in my mix, and so are there for less time?

So far a few Internet searches have turned up nothing on the idea, pro or con. Do any of you nuts have any thoughts on this -- or, even better, hard information? (Of which I so far have none.)

Thoughts, comments? If you've already responded to this question on BSG, feel free to ignore it here. (And don't bother to call the men in the white suits; I just hide when they come and giggle to myself while they search. ;) :p)
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Why don't you just compost it this summer outside, and screen what you need next spring? Seems to be a better peace-keeping move.
 

crhabq

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treebreard,

It seems to me that boiling the bark would sterilize it, thereby prolonging the composting process. And thus the time the bacteria tie up nitrogen. You could try boiling it and composting it in a it in a well draining pot/wooden box before you add it to you soil mix. That way you would take advantage of the well softened bark and tie up nitrogen before it really matters.

Don't know how well it would work. Certainly more work and time intensive (but less $ intensive). Just adding my 2cts.

If you try this or another variation, please share your results.

Ray
 

Jason

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:confused: Am I missing something? Your Kidding right. Isn't organic matter in a pot or elswhere always in the process of decomposition (composting)? If you are concerned about tying up nitrogen couldn't you just add extra nitrogen (ie fertilize)? I sooo wouldn't spend my time boiling bark. (unless maybe I was trying to look busy while drinking beer ;)) Don't do it.....step away from the edge, man!
 
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crhabq

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Jason,

You present a strong argument and a dose of reality -- until you mention looking purposeful while drinking beer.

By god, now that the rapture is not here, I might just go boil me a half rack of bark tomorrow,

Cheers,

Ray
 

bonsaiTOM

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How I love reading this kind of stuff first thing in the morning. :p

Get's me going for the whole day.

Hey, we're on our way to the BSUNY show in Rochester - might see some of you there.

Maybe even share a bob (beer over bark) along the way. :eek:

I'm not driving. :D
:cool:
 

jk_lewis

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Pulling this back to a semi-serious note, we fertilize our trees frequently enough that any nitrogen robbing by the decomposing bark would be negligible. I've used ground bark mulch for years.
 

Kirk

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Pulling this back to a semi-serious note, we fertilize our trees frequently enough that any nitrogen robbing by the decomposing bark would be negligible. I've used ground bark mulch for years.
I second that.
 

Mark D.

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Jason,

You present a strong argument and a dose of reality -- until you mention looking purposeful while drinking beer.

By god, now that the rapture is not here, I might just go boil me a half rack of bark tomorrow,

Cheers,

Ray
I second that! lol

Although, maybe I'll skip the whole bark thing and go straight for the beer...
 

evmibo

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Pulling this back to a semi-serious note, we fertilize our trees frequently enough that any nitrogen robbing by the decomposing bark would be negligible. I've used ground bark mulch for years.
How do you go about breaking it into smaller pieces? I can get big bags of pine bark at home depot (as I'm sure most of us can) for <$3/bag. Things is I don't feel like sitting on my porch breaking each piece individually ;).
 

treebeard55

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Guys, thanks for the laughs! I wasn't out to start a humorous thread, but I should have seen it coming! :D:D ("Beer over bark" -- my daughter in the other room wondered what I was laughing aloud about! There's got to be more that can be done with that concept... "we're upscale, so our Guiness is served only over the finest fir bark...")

As JKL said, back to semi-serious. The whole idea came to me when I remembered that a compost pile builds up heat, and the hotter it gets, the faster and more thoroughly it "works." A good compost pile gets hot enough to kill weed seeds and many pathogens. And maybe there does have to be some re-colonizing by beneficial beasties once it cools ...

I don't have enough fresh and semi-fresh bark to build a compost pile big enough to "work" well. I've tried to find info on "black-bag composting," which works with smaller amounts, or so I've heard. Nothing so far.

Yes, we do replenish the nitrogen in our pots pretty often! I don't see this as a major issue: more one of those want-to-give-my-trees-every-advantage kind of things.

Evmibo, I don't break it up: I sift it. Everything under 2 mm goes into garden soil; everything over about 7.5 mm gets used for mulch.

Thanks for the input so far, both serious, semi-serious, and non! :):) Slainte to all, and enjoy the rest of your day!
 

jk_lewis

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How do you go about breaking it into smaller pieces? I can get big bags of pine bark at home depot (as I'm sure most of us can) for <$3/bag. Things is I don't feel like sitting on my porch breaking each piece individually .
You must get pine bark Nuggets. They're useless for the sport of bonsai. I use "Nature's Choice" pine bark mulch. I get it in 3 cu ft bags from a local store. It costs $3 also, but it is ALL useful. I don't screen mine, but when added to the soil and when I'm filling pots I do weed out the large pieces and the occasional piece of wood.

It is with great surprise that I find that Nature;s Choice has a website: http://www.barkwiththebest.com/products.php

Bonsai People need to STOP shopping at Home Depot!
 

Brian Van Fleet

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When I use pine bark, it's Evergreen Soil Conditioner and I can use it straight out of the bag, sifting to remove the fines is optional. I suspect this may be available in some areas, maybe not all. No boiling...but I'm not looking for excuses to drink beer...it's pretty well expected by now!
 

evmibo

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You must get pine bark Nuggets. They're useless for the sport of bonsai. I use "Nature's Choice" pine bark mulch. I get it in 3 cu ft bags from a local store. It costs $3 also, but it is ALL useful. I don't screen mine, but when added to the soil and when I'm filling pots I do weed out the large pieces and the occasional piece of wood.

It is with great surprise that I find that Nature;s Choice has a website: http://www.barkwiththebest.com/products.php

Bonsai People need to STOP shopping at Home Depot!
Excellent info. fwiw I have been using pine bark from dallas bonsai but you can't beat that price from "nature's choice." I'll be getting some when needed, thanks again. Do you get purchase "aged" or "fresh?" Sorry for the minor thread hijack ;)
 

jk_lewis

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I get whatever my local store stocks. Fresh, I presume.

Dunno why I'd want "aged" dirt. I reckon it ages pretty fast in bonsai pots because we add som much water.
 

treebeard55

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Brian, that's exactly what I used to use, until the Lowe's stores in this part of Indiana stopped carrying it. Maybe they could get it special order for me; I'd have to see what they'd charge extra for the service.

Evmibo, you really haven't hijacked it much, and we're learning. Don't worry about it.

("Evmibo" has to be a contraction for something. Sorry: that's the linguists' son in me talking.)
 

cquinn

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Skip the pine bark, and order Fafard #52 mix for your organic along with some Akadama and River Sand. You'll see a world of difference I promise.
 

jk_lewis

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My, my that's rather definitive!

That mix would probably be OK -- if expensive at $11.00 per 3 cu ft bag. It also has perlite and peat in it, neithr of which I care for, particularly in my mixes. Its main ingredient seems to be -- ta da! -- pine bark.

Go here: http://www.growersupply.com/fafard52mix.html
 

evmibo

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My, my that's rather definitive!

That mix would probably be OK -- if expensive at $11.00 per 3 cu ft bag. It also has perlite and peat in it, neithr of which I care for, particularly in my mixes. Its main ingredient seems to be -- ta da! -- pine bark.

Go here: http://www.growersupply.com/fafard52mix.html
I have to admit that I was confused too. Pine bark, the main oraganic in there..? I too cannot tolerate perlite. I stand by pinebark+turface, cheap, effective, aesthetically pleasing.

Fafard #52
You could make that for much cheaper if you have good results with it :)
 
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