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So what is the alternative to peat?

wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,562
I've been pondering this as there seem to be times in gardening when the blanket advice is to use a peat based compost. Peat free multi-purpose compost is easy enough to get hold of and there's good stuff available but it's the things like John Innes compost and other specialist composts that you never see alternatives for.
I buy three bags of JI a year normally (mostly because they're a reduced price if you buy three at a time), two JI2 and one JI3. The JI3 is used to refresh the top-dressing on the acers and other similar plants as well as potting on houseplants that have outgrown their pots. The JI2 is for alpines and succulents. I haven't been able to find a viable and sustainable alternative for any of these uses yet but I'm not actually sure what the peat in the mix is actually doing.
Assuming the JI is 1/3 peat I'm using the equivalent of a 25L bag of peat a year at most. I've also read that vine weevils grubs thrive in peat so that seems good enough reason to switch to something else. :#
A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
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  • FireFire LondonPosts: 14,176
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,630
    The RHS is doing quite a bit of research on going peat free for environmental purposes so maybe worth a noodle round their site for what alternatives are best.   

    Beechgrove seems to be advocating coir based composts to replace peat.

    I can, but don't, still buy bags of pure peat here and it's really hard to find info on the composition of composts here but, given their lack of sterility and willingness to produce weed seedlings, I'm assuming most here are composted materials and not peat.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,696
    I think the trouble is that no other product is " problem  free " 
    Composting garden waste involves a lot of transporting/ processing and is hugely variable and coir has to be shipped across the planet. 
    Devon.
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 6,159
    I would think the compost manufacturers could, if there was demand or if they were forced into it, replace the peat in JI formula composts with composted bark or green waste. Whether it would behave the same is another question.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,696
    There was a big ho ha in the late 60s ( I think ) blaming JI compost for depleting Surrey loam beds which , pretty much , moved everyone over to peat based.
    Devon.
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,562
    Seek and ye shall realise you should have Googled before posting... Melcourt to the rescue again as they've just launched their new range of peat free John Innes mixes. I just need to ring around and find a local supplier now.

    Their multi-purpose is good stuff so I have high hopes for this.
    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • Hostafan1 said:
    I think the trouble is that no other product is " problem  free " 
    Composting garden waste involves a lot of transporting/ processing and is hugely variable and coir has to be shipped across the planet. 
    IMHO there is a wholesale refusal by certain individuals in the horticultral industry (including TV presenters and social media eco-zealots) to accept that "going peat free" isn't an automatic environmental "get out of jail free" card. 
    Don't misunderstand me - I see the need to reduce peat use but lets not kid ourselves that the alternatives are an easy fix or (on occasions) that they are actually any good. Some, not all & not all of the time,  are quite good - I'll accept that - but some are just crap in a plastic bag. 
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 5,575
    I used some Melcourt 'with added John Innes' last year for the few pots I have with perennials. They all seemed happy enough.

    I try not to use much bagged compost beyond MPC for starting off veg seeds - it's cheaper and environmentally better to just not use the stuff, peat free or no. I've drastically reduced the number of pots I have. I buy plants bare-root whenever I can, although it's often not possible, or start things from seed. I do occasionally have a splurge and buy a few plants - just had a bit of a blow out on the Hayloft site - but that's once in a blue moon. But that kind of drastic behaviour change is a step too far for most people at the moment - we're all looking for ways to carry on as we always have, rather than considering actually changing what we do, so the Law of Unintended Consequences often applies
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,230
    Is there an understandable analysis of the quality and environmental costs/benefits of available composts? If coir is shipped thousands of miles or bark production destroying native forests or whatever, we need to know. Everyone understands it's better not to use peat  but what are the issues around the alternatives?
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 6,159
    Does the "with added John Innes" thing irritate anyone else, or is it just me? John Innes isn't an ingredient that can be "added", it's a recipe or formula. Unless there's some poor soul of that name who's been composted.......
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