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In my previous blog I mentioned that I would give you alternative to peat based compost.

It took several decades for peat to be fully accepted by horticulturist and now it's losing its popularity.

Peat alternatives probably offer a greater challenge both in terms of product manufacture and plant management but peat-free products are improving and good products already exist.

The soil can be improved by incorporating well-rotted animal manures or composted plant remains; both materials can also be used for mulching, along with wood chips, wood shavings, bark and other materials. This can be expensive particular if you have a large allotment or garden.

Wood Most peat-free composts contain wood-based materials as their primary ingredient, e.g. woodfibre, composted bark, sawdust, wood or paper waste. Wood-based mixes can be tailored to the requirements of most plants as they have excellent drainage properties as well as a low pH.

Green Compost

Due to its high pH and high levels of nutrients, green compost tends to be mixed with other materials to make potting compost – it is usually no more than 30 per cent of the overall product.

Home-made Gardeners can mix well-rotted, home-made compost, leafmould and inorganic materials (loam and sand) to make their own peat-free growing media, but results tend to be variable. It is difficult to standardise pH, moisture retention and available nutrients, and to ensure that the final mix is weed-free. Home-made potting media are best avoided for seed sowing (because of the potential for them to contain fungal pathogens that can harm seedlings or cause damping off).

What to check when buying peat-free products

  • Wording such as 'environmentally friendly', 'compost' and 'organic' can often confuse gardeners into thinking they are buying peat-free products, but they do not infer this.

  • A good quality peat-free growing media is usually a little more expensive. The price does tend to reflect quality.

  • Check the label on the bag to see if it is recommended for particular plant groups (such as seed sowing or growing bedding plants).

  • Read and follow any advice offered on the label of peat-free products as many need slightly different treatment (when caring for the plants growing in them) to peat. Pay particular attention to watering and feeding requirements as these do tend to differ.

If the packing does not clearly state the level of peat alternative used or the origin of any peat used, the only way to have a clear conscience is not to buy it.

My quote for today is ...

"Never underestimate the healing power of a quiet moment in the garden"

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