Author Topic: Boiled wood  (Read 3053 times)

Treebeard55

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Boiled wood
« on: May 21, 2011, 04:44 PM »
(Yes, you read that right.  ;))

Many of us use shredded bark/wood as the organic component in our mixes. Composted bark is best, of course, but sometimes can be hard to obtain when one is on a limited budget. The most practical answer, often, is to buy shredded-bark mulch at a place like Lowe's, then sift it to get the right-sized particles for your mix.

But of course, that bark isn't composted. I've used it, and a month or two after potting up a tree, have begun to notice the hyphae of decomposition fungi on the bark pieces. In other words, the bark is being composted in my container!

I haven't noticed any harm to my living trees. But, if I understand correctly, the breakdown process does use nitrogen that would otherwise be available to my trees.

A wacky idea popped into my head: what if I were to first boil the bark chips for an hour or so? Might that do some of the breaking-down, so that once the bark were in a pot, there would be less, or maybe nothing, for the composting organisms to do?

So far I've found nothing on the Internet to give me any answer, one way or another. Does anyone else have any thoughts on the idea, or better yet, any hard information?
 

John Kirby

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2011, 07:39 PM »
Just "compost" it. Leave it in the bags, put them in black bags or put on ground and cover with ground cloth, etc. They will cook down quite a bit. The problem with green bark will be the loss of nitrogen required to break them down. John
 

Alain Bertrand

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2011, 02:25 AM »
At the same time, the extent of this problem is not the same in our hobby where usually one add only maybe 10-20 % of pine bark that is in the horticulture industry where pine bark makes the most part of the mix.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2011, 05:24 PM »
Thanks, both of you. You have a point, Alain. This isn't a major issue to me, just one of those want-to-give-my-trees-every-edge.  :)

I don't have enough fresh or semi-fresh bark to make a compost pile large enough to "work" well. (Thus the brainstorming.) I remember hearing about "black bag composting," which is supposed to be effective with smaller quantities, but haven't been able to find any information on it yet. Maybe you know more, John?

I'll probably experiment with boiling a small amount -- 2-3 liters -- just to see what happens. If I do, I'll report my results on the fora I frequent.

The members on the Bonsai Nut forum have been having a lot of good-natured fun with the whole idea. You might check it out.  :D
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2011, 06:56 AM »
Hello all,  pine bark is also acidic so depending on what you're using it for, some chelated lime as a top-dress or better yet incorporated will raise the pH a little. If you have the space, a drum composter that has a crank handle is an easy way to compost.  The crank allows you to turn it without the need for a big space and a shovel.  You can also add vegetable waste, leaves, etc.  When I was in the wholesale nursery biz, we bought "aged" bark but it was in bulk.  You may have a municipal compost site in town as well.  I'm skeptical of the boiling method, but interested to see what happens.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 08:46 AM »
Steve,
You aren't really trying to compost it. WThe technique is simple, as described above, if you want to save money and kill all of the organisms living within it- place on plastic (any color), wet it down with the hose- good and soggy, and then cover it with clear plastic. Seal the edges by placing soils or heavy objects on them, so the don't allow the cover to be blown off by the wind. THis is called solarizing and will cook every thing in side and doesn't require a lot over energy or time.

Or you can advance to Jedi status by using an organic free mixture.

May the Force be with you,
John
 
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 10:16 PM »
Oh, Master Obi-John Kirn-Oby, please be patient with me a little longer.  ;)

I'm familiar with solarization, tho I have yet to do it. The obstacle at this point is space, specifically space where my lovely wife wouldn't object to sheets of plastic tacked down. (Any place in public view would be out of the question.) I don't exaggerate much when I say our yard is barely large enough to command the respect of a postage stamp!

What I could manage, out of the public eye, is to load some wet bark into a sturdy black plastic bag, and leave it where it will get as much sun as possible. That might not be as effective as solarization, but still be worth the effort.
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2011, 05:08 AM »
You can also cook it in the oven to kill everything.  I have done that before.  Just don't broil it   ;D
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2011, 02:27 PM »
There's a thought, Owen. That would kill pathogens. But I think that, in order to start the breakdown of the wood (to reproduce some of the effects of composting, I'd probably want moist heat.

The broiler would probably give me charcoal and a shrieking smoke alarm! Tho, come tho think of, some recommend a touch of charcoal as a "sweetener" in the mix ...
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2011, 05:50 AM »
Yes, thanks Treebeard.  Forgot to mention the water part.  I use a product called Primera One similar to Turface but it has sharper edges.  It's a Lesco product so many places that are general stores for the Green Industry carry it.  It's also more of a "dirt" color.  I also use crushed granite to increase fibrous roots and add peat moss in different proportions depending on species.  I will be using the Aoki Blend product we use here in Osaka when I come back for good as I'll have pallets of it to use and sell.  It takes the guess work out as it has all the right particle sizes save the largest size which is in a separate bag.  The shohin mix is also nice.  I don't use bark any more unless it's for a big collected deciduous tree.
 

Treebeard55

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Re: Boiled wood
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2011, 12:32 PM »
Haven't seen Primera One, but I'll check it out.

John Kirby has been (gently) trying to wean me off using organics in my mixes. Given my watering habits, I hesitate to go fully inorganic. But I may well follow his advice next spring when it comes to pines, and see what I think.