Use pine fines for bird cage litter

bluegirl_gwDecember 5, 2013

It works great. I used to hate to throw out the good poop that was stuck to newspaper. The soldier flies will compost dirty paper in the compost barrel, but I wanted to use the droppings directly.

The calcined clay & zeolite kitty litters worked fine but were heavy enough to make the plastic trays sag. You need to have a grill over the trays to keep birds from ingesting litter.

Corn cob is ok but expensive & wood shavings got blown out by the birds' flapping.

The pine fines from a huge sack of Lowe's HapiGro landscape mix are perfect--just dense enough to not blow, flaky to catch feathers & poop, clean, dry, pleasant smelling, not too dusty to harm birds. I keep them in a brown bag inside a kitchen-sized garbage can. Shovel up dirtied litter with a dustpan into a bucket & distribute it to roses & other plants.

I initially rinsed, then sun dried them on top of an old screen door, but don't think this is necessary--I see no evidence of mold or other pathogens on the stuff, plus my birds have a grid over the drop pans.

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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Bluegirl, for that tip of Lowe's HapiGro landscape mix with mostly pine fines. Few years ago Walmart used to sell pine fines cheap, like $3 per bag. But now they only sell colored-dyed recycled wood-chips. I really miss their pine fines, which smell so good when I opened the bag.

Oyster shell in chicken grits is too alkaline, not recommended for plants. I re-quote the info. that Bluegirl gave on the right type chicken grits. Bluegirl wrote: "There are two common poultry grits--oyster shell (no no) & granite. For plants, use the granite. I like the size sold for young chicks (grower size) & find it at local feed stores, usually a brand called "Gran-i-Grit".

Below is a link that Bluegirl gave, a Horticultural supplies site with a variety of soil amendments by the scoop: cedar, charcoal, co-coir, granite chips, coconut husk, various size of lava rocks, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: horticultural supplies

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Fri, Dec 6, 13 at 10:54

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 10:43AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

There are plenty of sites on "Hugel gardening" for better tasting veges. Yes, veges like tomatoes taste better when it's well-drained. I planted a row a tomatoes from the top of the hill, descending down ward to a low & poor drainage spot. The tomato from the top of the hill taste delicious (soil is quite dry), but the tomato at the bottom of the hill, where it's soaking wet clay ... taste awful !!

Emgardener from Bay area (heavy clay, shady garden) ... posted how healthy his roses are in "Hugel pot", no diseases whatsoever. I notice that roses' root need oxygen, and Hugel pot helps with both aeration, perfect moisture, and drainage. When I have poor drainage in pots, my roses break out with both BS and mildew !!

Emgardener (or Gardenseek in his blog) posted You-tube of his experiments with various mediums: the best result was with a vertical stump at the bottom of the pot, to wick up moisture along the wood-grain. The worst result was with 50% pine fines and 50% Turface.

Bluegirl suggested 2" x 4" scrap woods ... great idea for the bottom of the pots. But I'm concerned: if the wood is treated with chemicals, then that would contaminate veges. like tomatoe or eggplant. One approach is to line the bottom of the pot with corn cobs (broken in to halves) ... corn cobs hold moisture evenly, better than wood chips.

Another approach is to use the young, whitish coconut core sold at Ethnic stores. There's a soft-spot at the bottom of the core, which one pokes with screw-driver, then drink the juice. There's a site which showed how to crack the coconut along its equator. After the soft white core is eaten, the fibrous white shell can be used to line the bottom of the pot VERTICLALY. The shape is perfect, cone-shaped 5 inches height, with a 5" diameter. Roots can spread easily over the cone-shaped coconut coir. Coconut core is high in potassium and phosphorus.

The advantage of fresh young coconut core is it retains water, without the added salt like coconut coir (salt is used in manufacturing process). Below is a link to the picture of fresh young coconut core, sold for $1 each in CA, it has fresh coconut juice and soft & creamy white inner ... taste better than pudding.

Here is a link that might be useful: Picture of fresh coconut core (white fibers)

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Fri, Dec 6, 13 at 17:52

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 11:47AM
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Oh, yes, wouldn't use treated wood--but ordinary wood scrap should do. I've used scrap particle board around beds & it's like a big sponge--don't know whether the glue is bad, but so far don't see evidence of it.

The wood most certainly is appealing to termites, so I won't put it next to the house.

I visited with a house appraiser/inspector once who told me that folks shouldn't be overly alarmed to see termites in their yard. They are part of the natural fauna & doing what termites do--eating rotting wood. He emphasized that it is a concern where wood touches the foundation or house structure--it shouldn't, if at all possible & where it does it should be kept dry.

think I will try a few newspaper logs stuck in between too. I've used it & cardboard extensively under mulch as a grass barrier. It works well, even though it stays moist underneath.
So I want to see how newspaper logs will serve as a hugel wick.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 4:42PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Bluegirl, for that info. on termites. I agree with what you wrote: " I've used it & cardboard extensively under mulch as a grass barrier. It works well." In my Chicagoland, zone 5a garden I use lots of newspaper and brown bags to put under bricks, to stop grass.

My kid likes to hunt for earthworms in the garden, she would flip my bricks over, to catch worms for her bucket. It takes moisture & organic matter for earthworms to flourish ... our best finds for earthworms are NEVER under newspaper (too dry).

Our best finds for earthworms are from most to least:

1) cocoa mulch: I bury cocoa mulch under mulch, or under horse manure, or mix with the top few inches of soil. Cocoa mulch smells like chocolate, best buried, so dogs won't eat. I use it since I have a fenced in garden, with no pets. After 1 month, there's a huge earth-worm population, like 10 worms per scoop.

2) Tomato branches & leaves: tons of earth worm, more so than decayed grass. At least 5 earthworms per plant.

3) Wet decayed wood chips ... 2 or 3 earthworms.

4) Wet newspaper .. no worms whatsoever. I suspect that newspaper acts like wick to dry out the moisture under, so grass roots cant grow. Works well in keep grass off. See picture below of my triple-protection against grass: Black Landscape Plastic Edging, wads of newspaper, then brick on top:

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 9:37AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I like the immediate green-up that sulfate of potash (salt index 42) on my roses, plus more blooms. That soluble powder is sold for $8 for 1 lb., free shipping from Kelp4Less. Since it works so well, I found another place to buy for larger amount, at lower cost. It's Alpha Chemicals with 4.9 rating out of 5 (591 Amazon ratings).

Sulfate of potash with 23% sulfur, salt index of 42, is a natural mineral .. processed into powder so it can be easily dissolved, to lower my high pH 8 tap water. It's a better choice that the potash sold at nursery ... Epsoma potash is actually muriate of potash, or potassium chloride with a high salt index of 116.2 ... that's the stuff we use to salt our icy sidewalk in zone 5a winter.

Alpha chemicals sell sulfate of potash 5 lbs. for $5.50. The company also sells citric acid ... 10 lbs. for $22. I used citric acid for 2 years to lower the pH of my tap water ... no burning whatsoever like vinegar. Citric acid is beneficial to plants: improve with rooting, it's sold at Health Food store for sprouting. Here's an excerpt of the benefit of citric acid for plants: "Effects of citric acid as an important component of the responses to saline and alkaline stress in the halophyte Leymus chinensis (Trin.)"

There's also an government study on how citric acid helps with plant growth, entitled "Citric acid enhances the phytoextraction of manganese and plant growth by alleviating the ultrastructural damages in Juncus effusus L."

Here is a link that might be useful: Alpha chemicals for citric acid & sulfate of potash

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 1:11PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I notice that when we get rain, my roses bloom way more than with my tap water pH 8. Rain water is acidic at pH 5.6 (more so in the East coast), thus unlock nutrients tied-up in my rock hard alkaline clay.

When I mix pine bark into my soil, it helps with better drainage. Better drainage means the top surface dries out faster, thus less fungal germination of top soil. With my pot ghetto, the pot with the worst drainage has both BS and mildew .. only Sharifa Asma was bad, due to my experiment of putting clay at the bottom of the pot.

Kimmsr in the soil forum wrote a very good guidelines for what's a healthy soil, see below:

â¢Posted by kimmsr 4a/5b-MI (My Page) on Sat, Mar 27, 10 at 7:53

... having a good reliable soil test done so you know your soils pH. Then you can dig in with these simple soil tests:

1) Structure. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. A good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains� too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots OM to speed it up.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 11:01PM
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