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Pine Needles as a Growing Medium


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#1 mantrid

 
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Posted 02 June 2011 - 19:10 PM

I am always looking for a cheap, alternative growing media for my VFTas and often feel a little guilty about using moss peat however 'sustainable' the producers claim it is.

My last experiment into using alternative growing media was my use of acidified sawdust which failed dismally. It was clear the plants were dying so I stopped the experiment and planted then back into peat.

A bit of research on the natural habitat of the VFT shows that pine trees are common and pine needles make up a proportion of the substrate there, at least in some places.

I dont know if this exp has been done by anyone else here. I cant check using the search facility as its not working for me. I think my firefox installation is have some javascript problems that I cant resolve at the moment. Im having problems with other sites too. But I digress.

I live in a ruralish area and close to many pine forests so I have decided to carry out some simple tests to see if pine needles can form part of an alternative growing media. This experiment is not going to be a truely accurate investigation as I have not used a large enough sample size to reveal any statistically significant results. However, I have tried to eliminate any control variables that may make the experiment worthless as much as possible, so the results may be of some use to anyone thinking of using pine needles or even carrying out further tests.

I have used 5 plants all vegatative divisions from the same parent, a bog standard typical VFT acquired from a local garden centre about 5 years ago. I selected this plant as it is a tough little @*~# that grows quickly. I have selected plants that are all the same size and small enough (2 cm) to give plenty of growing time before they reach adult size.

I have set up five pots with the following mixes
A - pine needles
B - 50:50 pine needles and moss peat
C - 30:70 pine needles and moss peat
D - 30:70 perlite moss peat
E - moss peat

The pots are all the same size and they will be kept in the same outside location.

D and E are really controls to see how the pine needles compare to other media generally used
I am not expecting the needles to be some sort of miracle media thats going to give huge fast growing VFTs, rather can it be used to reduce the amount of peat I use.

I am also hoping that the pine needles will help maintain the acidity of the media, as they are rich in organic acids that are a natural component of peat bogs, and so create an improved, longer lasting substrate for growing VFTs in.

Here is the first pic just after potting

Posted Image

Keep watching
This experiment should run all summer and maybe even longer

Edited by mantrid, 03 August 2013 - 19:50 PM.

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#2 Mike King

 
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Posted 02 June 2011 - 19:40 PM

Hi,
Chris Heath gave a talk some years ago and he was talking about using composted pine needles. You may want to try that first as they have fully broken down by then.

#3 mantrid

 
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Posted 02 June 2011 - 19:45 PM

Hi,
Chris Heath gave a talk some years ago and he was talking about using composted pine needles. You may want to try that first as they have fully broken down by then.


Thanks
Do you know if they worked?
I contemplated using needles in different states of decomposition. The forest I collected the needles from is about 50 years old and so there is needles in all different stages. I choose needles from a few cm down that were not fresh but had not completely broken down, sort of in between

#4 Phil Green

 
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Posted 02 June 2011 - 22:07 PM

I posted about pine needles recently, in the peat consultation thread. post 24, with a link to a good article.
http://www.cpukforum...ndpost&p=294531

and a recent newsbot article
http://www.cpukforum...=1

basically it breaks down to an above 7 ph.

Edited by mobile, 03 June 2011 - 07:46 AM.


#5 FlytrapRanch

 
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Posted 03 June 2011 - 00:48 AM

I think if I were going to try pine needles as an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, I might try a mix of 60% (by volume) of fairly finely chopped pine needles and 40% silica sand. This is an interesting experiment, and thanks for posting the topic.

Currently most of my Venus Flytraps are in a growing mix that has no sphagnum moss (neither peat nor long-fiber). I'm using a carefully desalinated "coir" (coconut husk pith or "dust," not much coconut fiber) mixed with silica sand and in some cases, evergreen bark pieces (such as small to medium orchid bark). It's a good medium that the Venus Flytraps thrive in, although Sarracenia seem to prefer sphagnum peat based mixes.

#6 jimscott

 
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Posted 03 June 2011 - 13:25 PM

I use to topdress the sand and peat mix. It's a good insulator and obviously also good for drainage.

#7 Trev

 
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Posted 12 July 2011 - 12:41 PM

I tried a few mixes with peat and sand a few years back, didn't notice any negative effects.

Most Irish blanket bogs were previously covered with Scots pine forests, all peat workings I've ever seen have the remains of the trees at the lower levels, so the peat we buy would contains some decomposed pine remnants.

Trev.

#8 Alexis

 
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Posted 12 July 2011 - 13:39 PM

Any update?

#9 Davion

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 08:47 AM

Having Recently Crossed-Over The-Calcifuge-Barrier so-to-Speak After 39-Years @-The-COALFACE ... "I"m Working-ON CEMENT-&-Bran @-The-Moment As-R Cheap-Alternative to-Peat ... Since BOTH-R Readily-Available @ Local-Shops, Mass-Produced ... &-As-R-Consequence 'Dirt'-Cheap so-to-Speak.

Yeah ... "I"-'Know' BAD-Pun ... But-Considering Bran Is-like 'Cheap'-Sawdust ... One-Can Often Pick-it-UP After The-Usual Annual-Harvests HERE For-as Little-as $0.20-Cents Per 500gs Which-Is 'About' 10-Cents Per-Litre DRY or ~ $12-Dollars 120-Litre-Bale Equivalent so-to-Speak!!! >(*~*)< EXTRAORDINARY &-THART's Retail!!! >(*~*)<

Cement Is-Rhoughly R-Dollar per-Litre Retail ... & @-The-Moment "I"m-Only-Experimenting with Rhoughly 25gs Per-Litre Bran so-to-Speak ... so-'If'-Successful Should-be Very Cost-Effective.

Anyway "I"ll Keep-You Posted ... &-If-Things Start Chugging-along This-Spring "I"ll 'Start'-R-Thread with Photos Somewhere Around These-Parts so-to-Speak!!! >(*U^)<

#10 mantrid

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 09:31 AM

Having Recently Crossed-Over The-Calcifuge-Barrier so-to-Speak After 39-Years @-The-COALFACE ... "I"m Working-ON CEMENT-&-Bran @-The-Moment As-R Cheap-Alternative to-Peat ... Since BOTH-R Readily-Available @ Local-Shops, Mass-Produced ... &-As-R-Consequence 'Dirt'-Cheap so-to-Speak.

Yeah ... "I"-'Know' BAD-Pun ... But-Considering Bran Is-like 'Cheap'-Sawdust ... One-Can Often Pick-it-UP After The-Usual Annual-Harvests HERE For-as Little-as $0.20-Cents Per 500gs Which-Is 'About' 10-Cents Per-Litre DRY or ~ $12-Dollars 120-Litre-Bale Equivalent so-to-Speak!!! >(*~*)< EXTRAORDINARY &-THART's Retail!!! >(*~*)<

Cement Is-Rhoughly R-Dollar per-Litre Retail ... & @-The-Moment "I"m-Only-Experimenting with Rhoughly 25gs Per-Litre Bran so-to-Speak ... so-'If'-Successful Should-be Very Cost-Effective.

Anyway "I"ll Keep-You Posted ... &-If-Things Start Chugging-along This-Spring "I"ll 'Start'-R-Thread with Photos Somewhere Around These-Parts so-to-Speak!!! >(*U^)<



If it doesnt work out you could always build a wall or a house out of it

#11 mantrid

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 09:32 AM

Any update?


Soon just took some pics and will upload in the next day or two

#12 Davion

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 10:02 AM

Posted Image

It's Not-'Quite' Wattle-&-Daub "I"-'Know' ... but "I"-'Think'-We'll Get-THERE In-The-END so-to-Speak ... & What-"I"ve Uncovered Along-The-Way May-'Just' Fill-IN The Gap Regarding The 'Speed' of Drosera-glanduligera &-Other Faster-Moving Sundew-Tentacles [RIM-Tentacles of The-Rainbow-Sundews so-to-Speak] Tentacles &-"I"-Assume Will Take-Them Down from 1/16th Hundredths of-R-Second to Closer Towards The Visual-LIMIT of ~ 1/100th of-R-Second so-to-Speak!!! >(*~*)< / >(*U^)<


"I"-Still-'Expect', Before The-END of My-Life ... to-Be FULLY-Vindicated Regarding It's Incredible, FASTER-Than-The-Eye Can-SEE, Speed so-to-Speak!!! >(*~*)< / >(*U^)<

#13 jesse

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 11:14 AM

Soon just took some pics and will upload in the next day or two


I'd predict that the results depend on whether you have used fresh or composted pine needles.

Fresh needles contain a huge amount of growth inhibitors like tannin.

Composting the needles destroys the growth inhibitors, so after composting the needles you can use them as a growing medium.

#14 mantrid

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 17:58 PM

Just over a month later.
The results look promising. The pine needle pots show better growth than the controls. The 100% pine needles doing the best. However as mentioned before the sample size it too small to draw any conclusions from this. However I think it does show that a high amount of pine needles in your medium certainly doesnt have a negative effect on the plants growth. So so far it looks like pine needles could be a viable alternative to perlite and a large part of the peat.
What I have noticed with the 100% pine needles is that because it doesnt retain water for as long as the peat it does appear to dry out faster, at least at the surface.

Note all pots are kept in the same tray so all have the same depth of water around the base. I suspect that those pots with more peat would soak up and hold more water. Could it therefore be that too much water could be slowing the growth in the peat pots?

2/06/11
Posted Image

15/07/11
Posted Image

Edited by mantrid, 03 August 2013 - 19:51 PM.

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#15 Phil Green

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 18:08 PM

I would still advise caution to others thinking of trying this.

A month is nothing. Give this experimant a year or two, before starting to drawing any conclusions. You could water with hard tap water for a month with no ill effects and my composted bark/wood chip experiment seemed OK after a month.

#16 mantrid

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 18:08 PM

I'd predict that the results depend on whether you have used fresh or composted pine needles.

Fresh needles contain a huge amount of growth inhibitors like tannin.

Composting the needles destroys the growth inhibitors, so after composting the needles you can use them as a growing medium.



see third post
I think peat bogs are high in tannins, dont they contribute to the acidity creating the conditions prefered by CPs?

#17 mantrid

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 18:10 PM

I would still advise caution to others thinking of trying this.

A month is nothing. Give this experimant a year or two, before starting to drawing any conclusions. You could water with hard tap water for a month with no ill effects and my composted bark/wood chip experiment seemed OK after a month.


true. this is a long term exp

#18 James O'Neill

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 18:13 PM

Yes, it does look good; of course you might need to see what happens over the course of a year and with more plants to get a proper conclusion, but these results do tell us that pine needles are no bad thing in short term; better than peat anyway.

The good thing is that pine needles are easy to come by, especially in larch woodland. You could collect sackfuls of the stuff if you wanted.

#19 jimscott

 
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Posted 16 July 2011 - 22:24 PM

Something to consider.... VFT's are native to a part of the Country where pine trees are prevalent.

Posted Image

Edited by jimscott, 16 July 2011 - 22:27 PM.


#20 gardenofeden

 
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Posted 17 July 2011 - 08:10 AM

The good thing is that pine needles are easy to come by, especially in larch woodland. You could collect sackfuls of the stuff if you wanted.


those would be larch needles then!! :whistle3:
I suspect they would have similar properties though!

Larches being felled en masse in some areas due to infection by Phytophthora fungus...