Time and again we keep reading about peat-reduced soils. But what exactly are Peat and its role in plant growth and gardening in general. We will also discuss if we need to use peat in our gardens and the reasons why it should not be overused.
Peat can be found in nearly all types of garden soil. We illustrate what peat substitutes are available that are less harmful to the environment, as well as provide information on peat-free gardening.
The replacement of peat with other biomass fuels is an essential issue in climate change mitigation. We describe the qualities of peat that have made it such a popular substrate and suggest some better options.
In many potting soils, the primary ingredient is peat. We explain what peat is and how it’s made, and we’d also like to look into the not too distant future. In order to conserve the climate and important ecosystems, only minimal amounts of peat will be utilized in gardening going forward.
In this post you can learn about
What is Peat
To make humus, plants decay into peat, which is created in wetlands and marshy lands where there is little oxygen and a high pH value. Most of the plant material in peat is still alive and hasn’t fully disintegrated (Sphagnum).
Peat can have a wide range of qualities depending on the bog type. Lower land bog peat has a pH range of 3.2 to 7.5, is substantially degraded, and is loaded with nutrients. It is acidic to basic. Unlike low-moor peat, which decomposes quickly and is deficient in nutrients, high-moor peat is extremely acidic (pH 2.5 to 3.5).
Horticultural peat can only be obtained from raised marshes. An old black peat layer lies many meters beneath the surface of the ground. It’s great, and even the tiniest details of the plants can’t be seen. The raised wetland’s higher layers include more recent white peat. It’s possible to see the plant’s structure even though it’s almost completely decomposed.
Raised marshy peat is ideal for planting soils due to its favorable qualities. Peat is a climate as well as species killer in the garden because of the damage it does to the environment during extraction and use.
Peat was previously burned for heat or used as horse stable bedding before it was employed in potting soils.
What is the Peat Formation Process
Peat is created in water-saturated peatlands by the accumulation of undecomposed or scarcely decomposed organic material.
Peat formation in marshes has been going on for almost 12,000 years. Peatlands are water-saturated because they store a lot of rainwater or are reliant on groundwater for their existence. Most decomposing organisms can’t survive or conduct their jobs well under these settings.
As a result, over time, bogs collect an increasingly thick covering of plant material. Some wetlands and marshy bogs have developed an extremely high acidity level, further aggravating the situation. As a result of the significant proportion of carbon compounds found in the deposited plant material, peatlands are appropriately referred to as massive CO2 repositories that actively take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Using peat, however, means releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which adds to the warming effect.
What is Peat in Garden Soil
Garden potting soil might benefit from having peat as a basis. This is due to the fact that it holds water well and without it, the roots would starve for oxygen and eventually decay. Its pH, as well as nutrient content, can also be customized to suit the needs of the particular plant being grown. Finally, once it’s dried, it’s quite light, making it convenient to transport.
Peat, on the other hand, has a slew of drawbacks. Decomposition and utilization of peat release CO2, which is better left in the soil because it is a limited resource. Extraction of peat continues to prevent rewetting and the return of former peatlands to their function as carbon storage sites.
Because of the benefits and drawbacks, peat substitutes should be used by both professionals and amateur gardeners as per their requirements.
Alternatives To Peat in Garden Soils
For many years, peat has been utilized in gardening. For a long time, it seemed unthinkable to envisage planting soils without it, as its physical and chemical qualities are so favorable to plant growth.
For instance, because of its advantageous pore size distribution, it can hold a large amount of water without depriving plant roots of oxygen. It also has a low pH and may be easily customized to meet the specific demands of any plant by adding lime. It’s lightweight when dry, making it convenient to travel. In addition to all of the above, it has extremely few nutrients.
As a result, the nutrient content can be tailored to the specific needs of the plants being raised. The high acidity of peat makes it ideal for planting with many different kinds of flowers and plants, including rhododendrons, hydrangeas, skimmias, lavender heather, blueberries, and bilberries.
Peat, on the other hand, is growing scarce: current projections suggest that the world’s peat supplies will only last for a few more decades. Furthermore, even with extreme care, peat mining still emits huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment. In light of climate change, it is, therefore, worthwhile to completely eliminate or at least significantly reduce the usage of fossil fuels.
Therefore, we are not alone in our pursuit of peat-free and peat-reduced Plantura soils of organic quality to turn the tide in potting soils. Peat-free and peat-reduced potting soils are the future, and peat-containing soils should be phased out as quickly as possible, say, professional horticulturists, environmental groups, and nature conservationists in Germany and Europe.
In order to create peat-free or peat-reduced soil, numerous components can be combined: When combined properly, peat and a variety of other inorganic and organic elements like wood fiber and compost can meet our plants’ nutritional demands just as well. Similar to peat, coconut pulp (sometimes called cocopeat, or just plain ol’ coconut) can hold a lot of water and breathe just like coconut husk. Compost and clay minerals hold nutrients well, while perlite adds structural support.
Top 11 Peat Substitutes in Gardening
Every garden enthusiast cares deeply about environmental conservation. However, we should not be penalized for having a green thumb. The use of non-peat soils is possible thanks to the availability of mixtures containing a wide range of different materials. We’d like to make use of peat substitutes that are widely available.
Wood Fiber, Wood Chips
Both of these are made using salvaged, untreated wood. Despite the fact that they provide a light, airy substrate, they are unable to store much water themselves. Wood fiber is brittle and prone to tearing and cracking. Because wood chips are coarser, they store less water, yet they drain well. The nutrients that are stored in wood cannot be used again.
One of the benefits of compost is that it has a high pH and it doesn’t tend to settle together as other soil types do. Compost has the ability to store and release nutrients and water. Compost from a reputable source is devoid of plant pathogens and weeds that might harm garden plants.
Sand can serve as an iron source in substrates, but beyond that, it holds very little nutritional value. Because it’s heavy, sand-based combinations work best in containers that won’t be blown away as quickly. Sufficient amounts mixed together ensure efficient water drainage and healthy root development.
Clay minerals such as bentonite make up the natural clay combination that is called bentonite. These are capable of swelling as a result of water ingestion. As a result, when used in substrates, they vastly improve water retention. Clay minerals have the ability to absorb, store, and release nutrients as needed. Because they considerably improve the quality of the substrate when used in conjunction with compost.
The severe heating of clays results in the formation of expanded clay. With expanding clay, less water and nutrients are retained in the soil. Water permeability and hence root oxygenation improve when expanded clay is introduced in significant quantities.
Coir Pulp, Coir fiber, Coir chips
Coco husk abrasion produces coco pith. It is necessary to remove the coconut fibers from their whole and chop them finely before using them. In the form of small cubes, coconut chips have the same fibers as whole coconuts but without the meat. Structurally, they’re all the same and hold relatively little nutritional value. Coconut fibers and chips have a lower water holding capacity, but they are excellent aerators of the substrate.
Threshing rice yields rice husks. Rice husks are light, airy medium that’s perfect for growing plants in. They can’t hold a lot of water or nutrients in their cells.
Perlite is a form of volcanic silica that turns porous when heated. It has a pH of 7, and it doesn’t store nutrients like clay does. Even though it retains only a little quantity of water, it loosens substrates enough to ensure that roots are thoroughly aerated when used as directed. The importance of this cannot be overstated, especially for young plants.
The Mediterranean pine yields its bark for this use. It has a high degree of structural stability and aerates the substrate well. It’s devoid of nutrients and may be customized to meet the specific nutritional requirements of any plant by adding fertilizer and lime to the mix.
Xylitol is a lignite precursor, which is an incompletely carbonized plant component. It is a byproduct of the lignite mining process. It has a very stable structure and also provides an airy substrate with excellent water retention.
Using Peat-Reduced Potting Soils
Peat-free and peat-reduced potting soils use a variety of other ingredients, such as bark humus, crushed brick, and vermiculite, in addition to those already mentioned. Particularly popular are soils derived from compost. We’ll go through how compost is made and what you can do with it once you have it. As an alternative, do you prefer to directly plant your seeds in the ground? Soil improvement will be the next step.
If, on the other hand, you want to build humus instead of peat, this article will teach you everything you need to know.