Alternatives To Using Peat Moss In The Garden

Peat moss is a non renewable resource and we need to preserve it. There are alternatives that you can use.

Peat has come to be a very versatile material for use in the garden. However, like so much else that we use in our daily life, peat is a non-renewable resource. We cannot continue to deplete the supply and must, therefore, look for other alternatives.

It is not easy to find one single alternative for peat has many attributes combined into one material. It is moisture retaining, usually free of contaminants such as seeds and toxins, is able to store the water and air and needs nothing doing to it before use. We need, therefore, to look at the various functions currently fulfilled by peat and find suitable alternatives for each.

The main functions for peat are as follows:

* for soil improvement

* as a soil mulch

* for a lawn and dressing

* in mixtures for planting

* for pots for seedlings

SOIL IMPROVEMENT

For soil improvement, we are looking for a material that will increase the drainage and aeration of heavy soils and help lighter soils to hold water.

Through recycling it is possible and easy to make compost which, for soil improvement is actually better than peat for it helps to add life to the soil which peat, as an inert substance, does not. Recycling can be done with almost anything that was once living. Kitchen waste, grass cuttings, leaves, manure from farm animals and even paper (in small quantities) can be put on to your compost heap. Regularly turned and kept warm and not too wet, all this waste will soon turn into a sweet smelling, soil like substance that is a wonderful conditioner for your garden.

Even collecting up all the autumn leaves and storing them in plastic bags or in a pile of their own can create leaf mould that will serve similar purposes, as a soil improvement medium, as peat.

It is possible to buy commercial products that you can use as peat substitute but, why spend money on such things when it is so easy to make your own, keep waste materials out of landfills and all for free?

MULCH

Mulch is used to keep soil moist, restrict the growth of weeds, offer some protection in the event of adverse weather and because, for some people, it produces an aesthetic appearance off neatness.

Once again, there are commercially available products for use as mulch but it is easy to find free alternatives.

Many of the materials which you can put into a compost heap can be used for mulching. These include: -



* grass cuttings

* straw or hay that is weathered

* sawdust that has also been well weathered (never use fresh sawdust)

* small twigs and branches that you are able to shred

POTTING COMPOSTS

Just as you would not use peat alone for planting your seeds or transplanting your seedlings, anything you create as a substitute must be a mixture that is suitable for the job it has to do.

Almost any avid gardener will have his or her own formula for seed or potting compost. You can experiment to produce what works for you and this would depend on exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Generally speaking, though, you will use some of your own compost and will be approximately one-third of your mix; the other two-thirds will be made up primarily of loam (fine fibrous soil) and a number of such things as bone meal, seaweed meal etc.

There are a number of things that can be used in your mixes such as:

* leaf mould which is old enough to crumble into small flakes. Do not use the leaves from evergreens

* old tree bark can be used in small quantities if it is broken down into smallish pieces

Once again, it is possible to buy materials that can be added to your mix but the most economical way is to use the things you have made yourself and that are free.

POTS

Most people, when planning to plant seeds will buy trays that usually come with a number of pots already in them. These pots will be made of either plastic or, frequently, a peat based material. The latter allows the seedlings to be put straight into the ground without the need for disturbing the ropes as the peat will break down in the soil.

The same result can be achieved at lower cost to the pocket and to the environment by using alternative materials for the pots and making them yourself. The very best alternative material is paper and old newspapers are excellent for this. Simply make strips to the height of the pot required and wrap-around a tube (the inside of the toilet roll is excellent) leaving one to two inches overhanging the tube. Then twist up the overhanging paper to create a flat base. The resulting pot can then be filled with your potting mixture and the seeds planted in the usual way.

These then are some of the ways and some of the materials that can be used and help preserve the ever decreasing peat reserves. With a little ingenuity and thought you can probably come up with other ways and other materials that will help the environment, ease the strain on landfills and reduce the cost of gardening.

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