Peat Moss: Benefits and Disadvantages
Apr 21, · What to Use Instead of Peat Moss Woody materials. Wood-based materials such as wood fiber, sawdust or composted bark aren’t perfect peat moss Compost. Compost, a good substitute for peat moss, is rich in microorganisms that benefit the soil in numerous ways. Coconut coir. Coconut coir, also known. Jul 10, · Peat can be used as a mulch in gardens but it dries easily and is then blown away by wind. Several other products like aged manure, compost, and wood chips provide a much better alternative to peat for this application.
Peat moss is one of those products in gardening that most everyone is familiar with. What are the alternatives to peat moss? There are plenty of peat moss alternatives, including coconut coir, compost, bark or wood fibre, pine needles, leaf mold, and manure.
Each has pros and cons, but are ideal alternatives to peat moss in many situations. Once you have a better understanding of the different products you can decide which is a suitable alternative for your needs.
First, we should talk a little about the difference between peat and peat moss as the two terms are often tossed around interchangeably. While they are related there is a slight difference between the two. Peat forms in marshy wet areas as layers of partially decayed plant matter accumulate to form a dense, fibrous material that is highly absorbent. Peat moss is a specific type of peat, formed in areas with a high concentration of sphagnum moss. So peat moss is peat, but not all peat is peat moss.
In the s peat moss found its place in horticulture, after being used for years as a fuel source. Due to a sizeable list of benefits, it is one of the most widely used types of growing media.
Using peat moss does come with some disadvantages. These disadvantages are key reasons why people are looking for alternative products. Each has pros and cons which you will need to consider, but each can make a wonderful alternative to peat in the right circumstances.
This will help you choose what to use alongside these alternatives to peat moss to build a fantastic soil for your plant. Coconut coir was a popular gardening product back in the how to make a bootable iso disk century but fell to the wayside in favor of peat moss.
At the time low-quality coir degraded quickly making it a hindrance in short-term growing situations. Recent manufacturing developments allow for the production how to make suicide pill hardier products. As a result, coco coir is rapidly gaining popularity as one of the best alternatives to peat moss.
Coir is made from the brown and white fibers between the shell and the outer covering of a coconut seed. Coconut husks are first soaked in water to soften them.
Once softened the fibers are removed from the husks and laid out to dry. The drying time depends on the local climatic conditions ie. After it has sufficiently dried, the coir is formed into bales to be processed into usable formats. It has many positive aspects, with excellent water retention at the forefront, making it popular for container gardening, hydroponics systems, and commercial nurseries.
Like so many other gardening products, coconut coir does come with some negative aspects. Whether these negative aspects are large enough to rule it out as an alternative to you will depend on the application you need it for. Compost is a rich soil amendment made from the breakdown of yard and kitchen waste by microbes; it is composed of organic material and chocked full of beneficial microbes and nutrients.
Compost is commonly mixed what are the components of organizational culture other ingredients to create commercial potting soils or is used as a soil amendment to help improve the structure, water holding capacity, and nutrient content of garden soil. Compost does have some drawbacks too, which must be considered when looking at it as an alternative for peat moss.
Bark chips and other wood-based materials such as sawdust make potential alternatives to peat moss. People have been adding wood products to their gardens for a long time, perhaps much longer than before the use of peat moss or coconut coir became popular. Another alternative that has been used for many, many years is pine needles because what is the difference between a ppo and an hmo their availability.
With evergreen trees gracing the yards of many homeowners they are easy to come by. Yet again, pine needles have disadvantages to their use, just like all of the other products. Leaf mold is simply leaves that have been left piled up, outside, and allowed to decompose or compost. While many times this is unintentional it provides gardeners with a product that has many advantages and uses in the garden.
For some people, leaf mold is a great alternative to peat moss and one that is similar to compost yet takes very little work. For those that have animals on their property, or live in close proximity to farms, animal manure may be one of the best alternatives to peat moss. There are many reasons to opt to use manure as an alternative, other than if you can get it for free. One of the biggest drawbacks of using manure as an alternative to peat moss is what many would consider the grossness factor.
What Is Peat Moss? Peat Moss. Coconut Coir. And How To Fix It. Household Compost. Wood Fiber. What are the qualifications for senators Needles. Well Composted Leaf Mold. Composted Animal Manure.
Learn the best uses for this mossy plant
One such substitute for peat moss is coir, which comes from the outer layer of coconut (Cocos nucifera, USDA zones 11 and 12) shell husks. Because of its low pH, peat moss is often used as a soil amendment to adjust and acidify soils that are too alkaline. For most planting needs, a neutral pH is preferred, so lime is often added to peat based soils before planting can occur. Most peat moss-based potting soils also include lime. Dec 29, · Sphagnum moss is considered to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than peat moss. Peat moss can take centuries or more to develop and be ready to harvest, whereas sphagnum moss is ready to harvest in under a decade. When sourcing your sphagnum moss it is still recommended to look for a reputable and sustainable supplier.
Coconut Coir, the widely-used hydroponic growing medium, is in recent years rising in popularity as a soil conditioner, in many cases replacing the use of peat moss, as both are very similar products. So, the question is, which one is the best for modern gardeners? This argument usually comes down to a discussion about sustainability and effectiveness. Sphagnum peat moss and coconut coir are both great soil additions. Both are all-natural and plant based.
Both mediums help to break up heavy clay soils and improve water retention in sandy soils. Each has its own separate group of nutrients that are beneficial to the soil, and both encourage natural microbial populations.
Coir, or coconut fiber, in its many forms, is the new kid on the block in terms of all-natural soil alternatives. Coco coir has long been used in hydroponic gardening due to its water retention and its deterrence of fungus gnats and certain diseases, as well as its root-supporting structure. Though its popularity has risen in the recent past, it functions in the garden very much like sphagnum moss. Coco coir is a byproduct of coconut processing. The fibrous husks of coconuts are ground or decomposed in order to produce a product that is very similar to peat moss in weight and texture, but darker in color.
Peat moss is a traditional soilless growing medium that comes from peat bogs. Peat bogs are swamps or marshes that are filled with a decomposed sphagnum moss.
Most peat moss in the United States comes from Canada. The final product is a light, fluffy, soil-like material.
It has an incredible ability to manage water efficiently and hold onto nutrients that, in other mediums, tend to leach out of the soil much more quickly. In addition to these benefits, peat moss also improves the texture and consistency of the soil. The pith of the coconut, from which coco coir is made, contains high amounts of lignin and cellulose that prevent the substance from decomposing and shrinking. This allows coir the ability to hold more water than peat moss, but it is not able to hold the water as long.
Coir has a pH of 5. This means that coir is more suited to a wide variety of plants without needing the addition of limestone to adjust the acidity levels. Peat moss soaks up to 20 times its own weight in water and releases that water very slowly. While being acidic may be a disadvantage in cultivating many plants, it can be an advantage if you water your plants with tap water, which is often alkaline.
Peat moss is somewhat less expensive than coco coir. Cows roam freely in India, and that can be a problem for coconut coir manufacturers, as coco coir can easily be contaminated with animal manure. Fresh water is used to extract fiber from ripe coconuts. However, if the coconuts are not fully ripe, they are then processed with brine, which can cause high salt levels in the coir. Coir is more expensive than peat moss in the US because of the shipping costs of transporting it from Asia.
Using coir also requires cutting back on potassium in fertilizers and increasing nitrogen levels. Peat moss has an acidic base, usually around 3. Some plants like the high acidity levels of peat moss, but otherwise, limestone must be added to raise the pH level.
Peat moss can often contain bacterial and fungal spores that can contaminate plants. It also attracts snails, which show no interest in coir. Though industry officials tend to disagree, peat moss is considered by wetland ecologists to be harvested at unsustainable rates. Associate professor Alan Meerow of the University of Florida IFAS Extension believes that peat moss is unsustainable, as they take up to 25 years to renew after harvesting.
Coir, on the other hand, is always available, as it is a waste product of coconut harvests. The outer husks are removed with water, and processed into many products, one being soil amendments.
Because coconut fiber is constantly available and grows on trees, it is widely considered to be a more sustainable resource than peat moss. But not everyone believes that coir is as sustainable, nor as eco-friendly as it claims to be.
Robert Pavlis at Garden Myths , believes that coir has been overhyped in this regard. Coir requires significant amounts of processing that uses lots of valuable water, which is already a limited resource in India, and leaves the water polluted after processing. His blog also cites a study that claims that working conditions in coir processing facilities cause worker health problems that would make such work illegal in Europe and the US.
Perhaps the most impactful long-term problem from coconut coir processing is the depletion of soil nutrients caused by growing coconuts in bulk and exporting the organic matter needed to replenish the soil. If you take into account the environmental damage that can be attributed to coconut farming and coir production, it hardly seems fair to label it as sustainable and eco-friendly in comparison to peat moss. Though mentioned in the advantages and disadvantages sections that coconut coir is slightly more expensive than peat moss, the difference in cost is minimal, and is largely due to shipping costs for transportation of the products, as coconut coir costs more to transport to the USA from Sri Lanka and India than peat moss, which usually only travels from Canada to the US in comparison.
Peat moss is acidic, with a pH level around 3. Because of its low pH, peat moss is often used as a soil amendment to adjust and acidify soils that are too alkaline. For most planting needs, a neutral pH is preferred, so lime is often added to peat based soils before planting can occur. Most peat moss-based potting soils also include lime.
Coconut fiber, in comparison, has a pH range of 5. Peat moss tends to shed water when first wetted, and coconut coir adjusts to water more easily than peat moss. Needing less time to become saturated, coir also needs less water. However, despite reports that coir has a greater water holding capacity, sphagnum peat moss holds 10 to 20 times its weight in water, while coir only holds an average of 8 to 9 times its weight.
Peat and coco coir products also come in varying textures which can affect their ability to hold water. With the results of varying studies and each medium having a different set of drawbacks as well as advantages, a clear winner is not easily discernible. Both mediums have their place in the gardening world, and both will continue to be used to improve garden soils around the world.
With all of the information in hand, only you can decide which soilless potting alternative is right for you and your garden. Coconut coir is a renewable resource that makes an excellent mulch for gardeners who need a mulch that offers plenty of drainage. At the same time, coir holds water—30 percent more than peat—keeping moisture accessible to plants.
Then apply them as you would any mulch, in a layer two to three inches thick, taking care not to touch plants or trees with the mulch material. You can read more about the benefits of using coconut coir as mulch in our article on the topic. When the growing season is over, you can use coconut coir again the next season, as long as you take the time to recondition it properly.
First, use your hands to go through the coir, breaking up and removing any leftover roots that remain in the coir. There are enzymes on the market you can use to help with breaking down and removing old roots from the coir before using it again if you like. Then wash it thoroughly in distilled water to flush out salts left behind. Allow the coir to dry before using it again.
The drainage that coconut coir offers makes it well suited to be a component in soil for growing succulents. Some gardeners recommend using a mixture of half pumice and half coconut coir, while other use three parts of a prepackaged soil blend designed for succulents, two parts pumice, and one part coconut coir. These mixtures are not only perfect for growing succulents; they work well for cacti as well. To use sphagnum moss in your container garden, first pick through the moss to remove any large pieces of grass, weeds, or other foreign debris it may contain.
Pack the moss tightly enough to keep the plant in place when the container is tipped to one side. Water deeply, or you may choose instead to submerge the container in lukewarm water and let it soak until it stops producing air bubbles.
Try not to let the moss become completely bone dry in between waterings for best results. Coir makes an excellent ingredient for composting because the carbon it contains helps to counterbalance the nitrogen in other ingredients, such as kitchen scraps. Use two parts coconut coir to one part green materials or one part coconut coir to one part brown materials. You can read our article on compost ingredients to learn about green and brown materials and what is suitable for composting.
Use peat moss as you would any planting soil, watering when it becomes dry but not allowing it to dry out completely before the next watering. As an alternative to standard watering methods, you can soak container plants growing in peat moss in lukewarm water until they stop producing air bubbles for a deep watering.
You can mix coconut coir with soil, using up to 80 percent coir, to create a soil blend that drains well and lasts for years without decomposing. Coir is often sold in bricks that need to be soaked in water before use. Refer to the package for instructions on how much water to use with your brick of coir, and soak it in a large container.
Then mix it with the soil you plan to use. The standard ratio is half coir and half soil. You can add compost at this time if you desire, or add one part perlite or vermiculite to further increase drainage.
Then use your coir and soil blend as you would any planting medium. Yes, peat moss makes a perfect component when mixing your own potting soil, especially for plants that need extra moisture. You can create your own blend by mixing one part peat moss with one part sand or vermiculite and one part compost. After combining these ingredients, add half an ounce of pelleted limestone and a quarter of an ounce of super phosphate or triple phosphate for each gallon of soil mixture.
Generally, water plants growing in coir every day or two, and keep adding water until the moisture drips from the bottom of the container.
You can start seeds in peat moss by itself or create a blend using one part peat moss along with two parts soil and two parts sand or vermiculite. Wet the soil before sowing seeds, and follow the directions for the seeds you have regarding how deep to plant them, as different types of seeds should be planted at varying depths. Mist as needed to keep the soil evenly moist. Keep the seeds somewhere that stays between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit where they will receive bright indirect light.
Most plants growing in coconut coir need to be watered every day or two. If the coir is drying out too quickly, moving plants to a larger container will keep you from having to water them so often. Peat moss is acidic, so depending on the pH level of your soil, it can increase its acidity. The pH level of peat moss is around 4. Some plants thrive in acidic soils, such as blueberries and azaleas.