Tina_i_am Posts: 173
This year, for the first time, I bought and used peat-free compost. It seems okay, plants growing well, but I do have a couple of observations about it.
I find it dries out quicker. The surface especially dries out and seems to make a firm crust. Is this normal for peat-free compost and does everyone else find this?
I was also wondering if peat-free is less nutrient dense than other composts? Is peat-free better for any particular situation or to be avoided for certain plants?
Thanks for reading
I've been sowing and growing for 50+ yrs now.
As a child it was always peat compost for everything. Then 10 or more years ago we switched to more eco-friendly sources and I've been using peat-free or mostly peat free composts for several years.
Without doubt, there is a noticeable difference. It's not that the peat-free stuff is bad, but in my opinion the added peat give better results when the plants are young, which makes them better plants.
This year I switched to Grow Wise which does have peat in it alongside JI and the results speak for themselves. The best stuff I've used for sowing and potting on for many years.
One thing I don't get though.
We know peat is not a renewable resource yet they dig up truly vast quantities of the stuff and burn it in power plants. Doesn't make sense to me that we're advised not to use the stuff in the garden, but it's good policy to burn goodness knows how many thousands of tons of it
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
I've been using coir mixed with John Innes No 2 at roughly half and half. I find coir retains water better than peat and the JI gives it a bit more body. The plants are growing just as well and see no need to carry on using peat.
Over 95% of that dug out gets burnt in power stations.
On that basis, I will keep using peat based compost as the pro's still do. Only the amateur market gets the recycled rubbish, contaminated with ??.
I'll keep using peat based compost simply because it's better, and it's cheaper than the alternatives.
The cynic in my believes we're being ripped on peat free composts by the price premium.
We very old gardeners were brought up using peat as the big growers still do because seeds and young seedlings need much less nutrient and like babies are weened onto the more nutrient bearing composts. The Greens killed the trade although only for us amateur gardeners the big boys still cock a snook at the so called ban. Where is the sense in all that I would ask apart from a few people will feel rather Saintly.
Our new power stations which are popping up like weeds in the North East are importing wood chips from Canada, chopping down forests apparently a bad thing? transporting them across to docks then on boats to our new multi million pound Dock and then burning them for our need to power the iPhones computers and TV's, I often ask myself have I gone mad or is it those around me, not having solved that question as yet.
I will continue to use what does the job best, peat, having found most of the modern recycled goodness knows what is in it composts need to be riddled to remove noxious substances then enhanced with home made compost or dare I say it CHEMICAL supplement. With my once pristine views out over the North Sea hampered by a solid mass of windmills my view across the valley to the beautiful Cleveland hills now hidden in a haze of sooty particles from wood burners I ask have I lived too long.
Thanks for the replies and healthy debate on should we use peat-free compost and does it make a difference to the environment, but can I just draw you back to my original set of questions?
I did buy some perlite yesterday to add to the peat-free compost. I just found that the peat-free compost seemed to dry out and form a hard crust and wasn't sure if this was typical. I was also wondering if it was suitable for all planting situations (fruit, chillies, container gardening) or if some plants just don't thrive in it.
I think it depends on your views Tina.
As you can see from the above, we seem to get better results using peat-based composts rather than peat-free compost.
You can use either. They're both multi-purpose-composts (MPC). Fine for chili etc and anything that lasts less than a year.
MPC is used for short-term planting - i.e. containers with flowers for the summer, seed sowing, potting on etc.
For seed sowing, I use a sowing MPC with vermiculite which is the best drainage enhancer for that stage - it holds water and nutrients and slowly releases them. I use perlite in the mix for potting-up and containers that will have plants for the summer.
If you're growing plants in containers long-term, then don't use MPC as within a year it'll start to break down. For containers you're best off with a John Innes 2 or 3 mix to which you can add some compost and grit for extra drainage. Both perlite and especially vermiculite break down after a while - grit doesn't
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
1. There are no peat burning power stations in the UK.
2. The two peat burning power stations in the Republic of Ireland are being closed and will not be replaced.