Gardeners! For Peat’s Sake ~ say no to peat.
As a lover of nature and all things ‘bio diverse’, as soon as I learned about the damage that draining and removing peat bogs does to our global environment, I forcefully changed my gardening habit away from using peat.
This requires reading labels of soil mixes carefully and avoiding ones that contain peat. I’ve discovered that making my own mix is easy and cost-effective, and more than anything I use organic compost to enrich regular garden soil.
Avoiding the purchase and use of peat also means releasing that old habit of buying little peat-pots for starting seedlings. Now my washed plastic seedling trays are re-used for years. Another peat-pot replacement idea is coir, a natural by-product of the coconut industry. It’s a renewable resource, unlike peat bogs which take centuries to develop. However it may travel far to reach you so that has to be considered as well. A great idea, if you have access to old newspapers or other waste-paper, is a wide dowel pushed over a couple of squares of paper atop a round plant-pot or other cylindrical shape. This can make a fine temporary (decomposable) home for a tender seedling. (Visit LEE VALLEY link here for more info on their excellent PotMaker)
Why not use peat?
“Peat moss develops in a peat bog or “peatland,” which is a special type of wetland. Peat bogs are as important and fragile as rainforests… [They] are home to rare wildlife, including untold numbers of highly specialized native plants, many of which may be endangered and found only in the peat bog. They are also Nature’s water purifiers, contributing to healthy watersheds and, in some areas, to safe drinking water. They also provide effective flood prevention. Destroying a bog destroys these benefits. Peat bogs are also ‘global coolers’ helping to fight climate change.” – source: Natural Life Magazine
“Large areas of organic wetland (peat) soils are currently drained for agriculture, forestry, and peat extraction. This process is taking place all over the world. This not only destroys the habitat of many species, but also heavily fuels climate change. As a result of peat drainage, the organic carbon that was built up over thousands of years and is normally under water, is suddenly exposed to the air. It decomposes and turns into carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released into the atmosphere.
Peat deposits are found in many places around the world, including northern Europe, and North America, principally in Canada and the northern United States. Here, too, occur some of the worlds largest peatlands, including The West Siberian Lowland, the Hudson Bay Lowland, and the Mackenzie River Valley. The amount of peat is smaller in the southern hemisphere, partly because there is less land, yet South America has one of the world’s largest wetlands, the vast Magellanic Moorland, with extensive peat dominated landscapes. Peat can be found in New Zealand, Kerguelen, and the Falkland Islands, and Indonesia (Kalimantan and Sumatra). Indonesia has more tropical peat land and mangrove forests than any other nation on earth, but Indonesia is losing wetlands by 100,000 hectares per year.”
Bogs occur where the water at the ground surface is acidic and low in nutrients. In some cases, the water is derived entirely from precipitation, in which case they are termed ombrotrophic (rain-fed). Water flowing out of bogs has a characteristic brown colour, which comes from dissolved peat tannins. In general the low fertility and cool climate results in relatively slow plant growth, but decay is even slower owing to the saturated soil. Hence peat accumulates. Large areas of landscape can be covered many meters deep in peat. Bogs have a distinctive group of plant and animal species, and are of high importance for biodiversity, particularly in landscapes that are otherwise settled and farmed.” ~ source: Wikipedia
Tree Hugger: for Peat’s Sake, by Jasmin Malik Chua
Natural Zeolite Products: Peat Moss Replacement
Peat Bogs Should Be Preserved, by Matthew Sparkes, Apr 10, 2007
The National Trust in the UK: protect the countries peat bogs.
Why And How Every Gardener Should Go Peat Free, by Sami Grover
The Chelsea Flower Show may have declared its intentions to go peat free, and peat alternatives for the garden may be increasingly available, but many gardeners continue to use peat despite the fact that peat mining is stripping vital habitats at a far faster rate than they can regenerate.
Emma Cooper at Permaculture Magazine lays out a passionate argument for why and how every gardener should go peat free: “I have also encountered gardeners who justify their peat use by explaining that the amount used in horticulture is minuscule compared to the amount burned in power stations in the countries who still have sizable peat reserves left (we don’t). This smacks of a juvenile, playground response – ‘he started it!’. As rational adults we should take responsibility for our actions, which includes making informed choices.”
Peat Has No Place In Your Eco Garden, by Natural Life Magazine
[Gina’s Note: I first released this ‘For Peat’s Sake’ article as a sub-Page under my Page ‘Gardens’ in 2012]