For Peat’s Sake!

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.

Lee Valley PotMaker
Lee Valley PotMaker

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

Additional Reading:

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]

20 thoughts on “For Peat’s Sake!

    1. Yes unfortunately short-sighted business may get a temporary profit from this non-renewable resource, but if we gardeners stop purchasing it hopefully the demand will drop! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  1. You saw my post on making soil, so it may not surprise you to learn that I gave up peat last year when I learned not only of the destruction of the bogs, but discovered that beautiful dirt can be made with neighbors’ trash! Such a bonus. Free AND plentiful. Thanks for the environmental shout-out, my sweet northern neighbor.

    1. Hello my sweet southern neighbor, How are you? I can hardly wait to come over to DirtNKids and catch up but first I shall hastily reply here with an apology about being away for ages. This was a rough spring and summer, but things are looking up (sure, just as the leaves begin to turn 😉 ). But yes, back to bogs, giving up peat is the only way to go! Your post on making soil is brilliant. Hugs to you and we’ll be visiting soon. Gina

  2. Thank you for gathering up this information and sharing. I never knew the impacts of using peat in gardening. This is a good reminder to be a knowledgeable consumer.

    1. Thank you for this delightful comment Amy, and please forgive my (huge!) delay. It feels good to be back and I look forward to coming to catch up on your wonderful blog. Hugs, Gina

  3. Wow, Gina, I had NO IDEA!!! Thank you so much for the information. I’ve been trying to work my own soil, but when I DO buy, I’ll definitely be checking. Thank you so much.

    1. I’m so glad to share this info along as I too remember that ‘Ah ha!’ moment when I realized where peat came from. (BTW sorry for my long absence, and I look forward to coming over to catch up on your posts asap). Cheers, Gina

  4. Very interesting post–perhaps some suggestions for a substitute? My suggestion is all of that GREAT stuff that comes out of the kitchen when you are making vegetables and fruit, not to mention coffee grounds, eggshells, paper towels, etc.–i.e. your own organic compost.

    1. Hello and thanks for your comment! First off, apologies for the delay as I was away from here this summer but it feels good to be back and will be coming over to visit at your great site shortly. As far as substitutes I did try to cover that.. it can be a bit tricky as we have to be careful the mixes we buy don’t include peat moss. I mostly amend regular soil with compost and sometimes manure. The peat-pots are easier to replace, with coir or even newspaper (although I don’t like working with that noxious stuff!). And if a person is able and determined they can even use permanent little pots just washing them well between seasons! But that could get costly. Anyways, thanks again and I’ll come visit you soon, after I re-awaken this poor neglected blog of mine. Hugs, Gina

  5. I know the feeling of needing to re-awaken a poor, neglected blog! I agree with your mixed feelings about newspaper–it’s useful for multiple purposes in the garden, for sure; but so toxic! Nonetheless, it is a way of recycling/re-using without the further environmental damage of burning fuel to send recycling trucks around to pick them up (at least not to contribute to that).

    1. Thanks for my first comment after my absence! Great to hear back from you, and you’re so right that while it IS one way to recycle (reuse?) newspapers I still prefer to not even purchase them, although hubby buys one a week. 😦 Oh well. We do keep them in a box in the garage to be put to any sort of good use before going into the recycling bin. See you again soon! 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for this information. Having inherited extremely rocky land I tried my best to work with what I had, but finally resorted to making raised beds in preparation for next spring. Unfortunately, I decided to start filling those beds with peat moss. Thankfully I only just started. So many organic gardening books/sites have suggested peat moss I never gave it a thought and bought it. I feel horrible to think my actions have played a part in more destruction of the environment and ecosystems. Thankfully, your information will lead me to much better choices for the rest of the garden.

    1. I’m so glad it came at the right time, well close enough anyways. Please don’t feel horrible dear gardener. Anytime is a good time to stop using peat moss. I am amazed at how rarely the truth of the peat moss industry is shared in what I read in gardening magazines and books. Here’s to hoping that each of us can continue to spread the word. Thanks so much for this delightful comment!

  7. Thanks for researching and writing this. I also used to love using peat in my garden. My home had terrible soil and the peat helped, but I had no idea what it was doing to the environment. Once I did, I stopped using it, and use compost to amend the soil. It is so important to share information to help us make enviromentally sound choices.

    1. It’s my pleasure to share what I’ve come across, and it means so much when kind readers like you comment. I too now use compost and have found I don’t even miss the peat. But awareness is key, and like you wisely stated – it is so important to share what we’ve learned and pass it along. We’re all in this together and too often the ‘industries’ aren’t quick to share the full truth. Thanks so much for your visit and comment!


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