Why I feel we should never use peat as a soil amendment

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by earthy smells, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA
    Peat moss

    Hi all! This is my first post here and I hope it goes well. I just finished writing up
    something I am pretty passionate about. I'd like to make it clear that I am not
    doing this to claim moral high-ground, feel superior, or judge anybody. I simply
    hold this issue close to my heart and would like to express my views on it, in
    hopes that someone can learn a little something and help out the environment. I
    have tried hard to not come across as condescending or "preachy" so I hope that
    pays off, because that is not what I intend - I just intend to spread knowledge
    and have a civil discussion of the topic. I feel as though this post would be most
    accepted and understood in this forum.

    Here goes! :D

    Firstly - if you are not sure what "peat moss" is, this link may be helpful:

    From the website of a large peat moss mining corporation:

    "Water management alone can take up to one year. Once the water table
    is lowered to a manageable level, equipment can enter
    the peat bog to
    prepare its surface. If present, trees are cut and used to make roadways
    within the bog, then large stumps and smaller vegetation are removed.



    Ah, the debate of "eco-friendly" peat moss harvesting
    I had to ask myself, today:
    is any harvesting of peat "eco-friendly?"

    "Abridged" version of this post:
    (There once was a man, who wrote a love note, explaining that the hardest part about writing the letter was keeping it short!)

    1...Peat mining sites are stripped of flora/fauna, on an individual basis,
    ......which severely impacts the local ecosystem,
    ......and also impacts the global ecosystem.

    2...Just because there's a lot of peat all over the world does not make it Ok
    .......to strip individual sites, as explained above.

    3....Many plants and animals (many of which are rare/endangered) depend on
    .......specific peat bog sites and the landscape diversity they provide...

    4....Individual peat bogs add to a landscape diversity that the ecosystem
    .......depends on, in part, to thrive..

    5....Mining peat liberates CO2 in two ways, releasing enormous
    ......amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere,
    ......which disrupts the global ecosystem and adds to increase global
    i....The peat you purchase decomposes over time, releasing CO2.​
    ii....The peat bog itself is lead to exponential rates of CO2 liberation due
    ......to the industry stripping it. CO2 is usually bound in these bogs, in the form of
    ......highly undecomposable sphagnum peat moss, staying there for thousands, if
    ......not millions of years. When peat mining is done, it causes peat to be exposed
    ......to oxygen. It also lowers the water table. These things mean that the peat
    ......bogs that once were untouched and not decomposing, now decompose, and
    ......liberate enormous amounts of CO2 into the air (peat moss is chiefly composed
    ......of carbon)​

    6.....Mining peat lowers water tables in the specific mining areas,
    ......which is another offense to our ecosystems

    7.....You don't need to use peat! Peat is acidic, repels water when
    ......dry, and compost can be easily substituted for it. Compost is a better
    ......source of organic material, by far and offers a large range of nutrients
    ......as well as biological life and, perhaps most importantly, a large range of
    ......organic matter/complexes.

    8.....Peat cannot and will not be mined with the ecosystem's well-being as a priority.
    .......This is because the peat industry ferociously fights regulation and currently
    .......mines (strips - relatively speaking) one location before it can regenerate (for
    .......that is impossible, since it cannot grow as fast as we are mining it). Just
    .......because we have a lot of peat on this planet does not excuse the stripping of
    .......individual peat mining sites, because it affects the local or regional
    .......ecosystems which then has a ripple affect on the rest of the world's

    Now: The long version.

    So I asked myself: "Do you trust regulations to protect peat bogs, in a way
    that is acceptable to you?"

    Well, I have decided that I do not.
    Given the facts, I don't think you should, either.
    The great thing is this, however:
    You do not need to use peat! There's an alternative!
    It's called compost.

    What are the disadvantages of peat?
    .......It repels H2O when dry.

    .......It is also acidic.

    .......It is not a complete source of organic material

    .......But, best of all, you can just use good compost instead, to
    .......achieve what you are trying to achieve when using peat moss.

    When we mine peat moss, bad things happen

    .......Water tables drop.
    The peat bogs are harvested (dug - resulting in low lying areas, or ditches,
    or holes), which results in increased water loss from the entire area, which
    results in lowered water tables where the harvesting is done. This isn't just
    low water tables in the area where they dig the massive crater to excavate
    moss. This is the entire outlying area of this massive hole, we're talking
    about. ​

    .......Plants & animals are disrupted.
    The peat is robbed from the site, meaning that that the mining site's
    ecosystem is chopped away in many aspects. Flora and fauna can no
    longer survive (as well, if at all) in a mining location, and animals that use
    peat sites (for example, migratory avians depend on peat bogs as a source
    of food while traveling, as well as many other species of organisms)​

    .......Landscape diversity is lowered.
    Long term, we notice that as each of these sites are cleared, the
    result is less landscape diversity in that specific locale. Ecosystems, including
    our global one, often thrive on the fundamental concept of high landscape
    diversity (well, at least as high as it was before man tinkered with it).​

    .......CO2 is liberated from tampered peat bogs
    Finally, we see that the peat mining liberates CO2 at exponential rates
    compared to what liberation there would be, and global warming is increased
    as the CO2 from you you use is liberated (as your personal peat supply
    decomposes over time). Also, the actual peat site where the mining is
    done is now in a low water zone (which once helped to inhibit decomposition
    of the peat at this site), creating exponential CO2 liberation from the actual
    site itself. ​

    .......It is for these reasons, in conjunction with the fact that we can use
    compost derived from what would otherwise go into landfills, that makes
    me vow to never in my entire life support the peat industry. I can only
    hope that my fellow growers do the same.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2008
  2. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA

    See, I compare peat mining to fishing.

    .......With fishing, we can work out a way to do it that is sustainable. Why?
    Well, because fishermen know (or at least should), that sustainable fishing will
    ensure the future of their business. Also, the survivability of the fish (a
    concentrated resource, compared to peat) depends on the immediate effects
    of harvesting a population within a certain location.

    .......With peat mining, since there is such an abundant amount of it (peat
    bogs cover 1% of all global land - which may not seem like a lot, but is a very
    significant amount..) and the collective peat bogs' survivability (on a global
    scale) does not depend (as much as fish) on the survival of one bog
    does not depend on that of other peat bogs in differing locations.

    .......Therefore, regulations will not stop the individual company from mining a
    specific site to depletion - there simply is no incentive for them to do so.
    The miner will basically strip a certain site, rather than skim from a multitude
    of sites (without nearly depleting specific peat bogs). Long term: This is a
    bad thing. Short term: This is a bad thing.

    .......Ideally, they'd mine the peat bogs on this globe a whole - a collective of
    individual peat bogs.. They do not though. Since there is such abundance
    they will mine a specific site to depletion, which is very detrimental to the
    ecosystem, yet is currently allowable by the industry's so-called "sustainable"

    .......I do not trust these regulations from stopping such horrific acts on the
    environment. And, when there's an easy and smart alternative (compost), I
    especially disdain peat mining.

    To conclude:
    Many rare species thrive and depend on peat bogs.

    Peat bogs are CO2 sinks, and disturbing them releases this CO2

    Peat can be replaced with compost (or other organic matter), instead, when

    Peat bogs help maintain unique biodiversity in our ecosystem
    Peat mining forever alters the location of mining, no matter how much the
    industry itself tells you about their precaution and "sustainability"

    I do not trust the peat industry, and do not support it, for there is no need,
    and it is detrimental to our environment.

    Any input is certainly welcome, and I hope you all grow on well, whatever your choice may be!

    Peace! :)
  3. natureman

    natureman Active Member

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    NY USA- Zone 6b
    Wow! Very insightful indeed! I never wondered where peat came from :P, but I make sure to stray away from them , I just don't like their qualities as pots. I'll spread this info, very interesting!
  4. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Victoria Australia [cool temperate]
    This is what I like about this list. Good solid stuff to do further research on. I am going to see what I can find out about the local set up if any.. Thankyou very much for your information.
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    We have some old peat mines around here. Sometimes these are like water-filled bomb craters, and look like they will remain that way for a long time. Little, if any bog vegetation may be present. One or two of them in the Seattle area were important collection sites for locally very rare plants during pioneer times.
  6. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Britain zone 8/9
    Well said!

    It's a big issue over here too
  7. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    I grew up near peat bogs that were being "mined" (see peat moss in Manitoba).

    "Moonscape" was one of the words I remember being used to describe them.
  8. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    Beaverton, Oregon
    Thanks for sharing.

    The main thing I'll say, is that I quit using peat moss for landscape / garden use about 12 years ago, because I did not like the results compared to other organic composts available locally.
  9. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    Calgary, Alberta, Canada Zone 3a
    I think this is a well balanced article about the subject.
    The alternative use of spent mushroom substrate is a good one for this area as the local mushroom farm gives it away free on Mother's Day and $1.00 a bag the rest of the time (bring your own shovel and bag). This alternative would be worth pursuing in other areas with mushroom farms.
  10. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    Denman Island,BC
    Shall I be the devil's advocate?

    In the summer of 1969 I was part of a survey crew about 70km north of Williams Lake BC, working in some previously logged, some virgin forest land determining the extents of a rather large copper deposit. It was spectacular country of "pecker-pole" pines, big trees, granite cliffs and canyons, bogs...

    Taseko Mines Limited - Photo Gallery - February/07 -- Current mining operations, Pollyanna Pit - Thu Feb 21, 2008

    As you can see, that is no longer the case. The mine operation now covers over 100 square kilometers.

    Does this mean I/we should no longer use copper or products containing copper?

    Peat is a mined product and yes, most mines are ugly, many are dangerous and most if not all have displaced or destroyed habitat. It's easy to descend upon a product and prove that anyone with a conscience would never use it: paper, plastic, automobiles, copper,... peat. That approach will lead us into paralysis not progress, conservation or environmental repair.

    Everything we make or use or consume has a cost beyond the money we shell out to buy it or produce it. We should seriously attempt to know these costs (especially the costs that are distant to us) and balance our "needs" carefully against them.

    I will continue to use peat as part of a potting mix along with perlite (a pit mined product) and sand (woah! another pit mine). I won't use it as a soil amendment because it doesn't work in the longer run, and other products (composted manure, composted hay, "green chop", deciduous wood chips...) work better and can often be free. I'm open and curious for information on alternatives, but this works for me at this time.

    As I have learned in conversations/tirades with my three teenage sons, "never" and "always" are fightin' words, not learnin' words.

  11. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Victoria Australia [cool temperate]
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2008
  12. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA
    The difference is that we don't need to rely upon peat moss as a soil amendment. There are viable options....So it simply isn't the same as paper/plastic/metals/cars.

    You don't need to use peat moss in your pots. It's that simple. You don't need to use perlite. It's that simple. We do not need, ever, to use peat as a soil amendment or in a potting mix. It is that simple. No fight about it. Just fact.

    Why not kill two birds with one stone?
    Encourage our society's use of compost...
    Kill the notion that peat moss is needed for potting/soil applications...
    And voila. A needless industry is severely minimized, CO2 isn't being spewed into the air because of it, and tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of hectares can now be restored to house the biodiversity they once were robbed of.

    Thank you for your response, Ralph!
  13. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    Calgary, Alberta, Canada Zone 3a
    Thanks for your input Ralph. Many moons ago when I was involved with these issues in my day job environmental agencies/activists/lobbyists/advocates were involved in regulatory decisions based on their knowledge of legislation (international as well as federal, provincial/state), knowledge of the industry being regulated, and knowledge of BTK (best known technology). In those days the buzz word was "sustainable development" and economics was a factor in environmental assessments.

  14. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Earthy smells, I think your passion on the subject is understandable and it is nice that you are doing research and are sharing your insights. Unfortunately the pitfall of activism on this or any other subject is that you are attempting to change other people's behaviour rather than just your own, and to do this effectively you have to have real respect, not lipservice respect, for their needs and opinions, and you need to recognize the boundaries beyond which the imposition of your opinion becomes not an educating impulse, but a controlling impulse.

    Let me give you some examples. I used to be what we once called a clean air advocate. I'm guessing you're younger than I am - when I was your age, cigarette smoke was everywhere, in every work place, every apartment building, every restaurant, airport and airplane, bus depot and bus, and even in retail stores. My activism was geared to getting smoke out of non-smokers' lives - and it seems obvious, doesn't it, that no one should smoke? But to attempt to control WHETHER people smoke was never my objective, and when the clean air movement started to go that route, and sought to make smoking more and more miserable and excluded, I checked out of the movement. I don't know how it is where you live, but here in BC you can count on clean air in all the places I mentioned above and then some. We succeeded in cleaning up shared airspace and should have stopped there, but now activists are starting to try to control smokers' use of their own airspace. That will generate a backlash and will end up being counterproductive.

    Perhaps a better example is alternative modes of transit. Here again I was a strong proponent of alternatives, having been a bicycle commuter in the '70s and '80s, and a transit user and advocate going back a long way. However, today my hip joints are going and it kills me to walk too far and above all to stand for long periods - riding is tough, and if I take transit my hips are done by the time I reach my destination. Yet I am subjected to relentless campaigns by cycling and transit advocates who seek to tell me that my use of a car is immoral. That, again, is activism that seeks to control, not inform, and that does not respect that some people may have good reason for still making the choice that you abhor.

    So there are two cases in which I find myself unable to support activism that I once engaged in! And the reason for my lack of support is that these movements do not seek to understand the needs of the targets of their campaigns. Rather than respecting smokers' choices, or the choices of the physically limited, they simply lump them in a big group to be vilified wholesale. And both those campaigns are generating fierce backlashes and resentment - for no reason other than the activists' own inability to respect the boundaries of reasonable influence.

    Your response to Ralph, above, illustrates precisely that flaw. I point it out because I really wish you the best of success, which ironically you are more likely to have if you are less pushy. Your response illustrates a lack of acceptance of his choice, and above all a lack of interest in his needs. That is the fatal flaw that will derail your campaign in the long run - you research your own position ad nauseum, but you did not research his position at all. You simply announced your assessment of his needs. But what plants does he grow? Perhaps his needs are indeed a legitimate use of peat that you should understand to make your campaign more effective. Perhaps he grows plants that are endangered on peat bogs? Just a thought.

    In order to make real your statement that you "hope you all grow on well, whatever your choice may be!" your response needed to be a lot different.

    By the way, you are not alone in your quest. Yesterday I went (by bus!!) to a presentation by a local garden centre owner who talked about container growing and mentioned peat amendments, but pointed out peat's unsustainable nature and suggested coir as one alternative.
  15. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA
    I think you're totally right and I didn't respond to Ralph in a good way. I answered his post in a hurried and inconsiderate way, and that wasn't right. I see what you are saying about true respect. And believe me, I respect you all, but obviously I let my emotions get the best of me. I didn't even offer him any alternatives, as I still need to look that part up.

    I also see a lot of issues with my original writeup now. And I'm glad you all were able to help. I am going to plan on doing this for my capstone project, I'm a senior undergrad studying biology. Will do a presentation on this and then a fake proposal for a study to investigate its damages or something like that.

    Yes but I wasn't proposing restrictions, I was more advocating a user boycott of peat. I also am not telling people they can't use it, rather that they should use it, and for these reasons, etc. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's what I felt like.

    My answer to this in terms of my idea would be that this is why we need a society that embraces composting more, so compost can become available to people. Or for example maybe we could dry out compost and compress it for people that don't want fresh compost which is very heavy for its volume, I dunno...I see what you're saying though. You have to always offer an alternative if you're going to tell people what they should be doing....

    Yeah, good point..



    I'm going to go crawl into a cave now, later! Thanks
  16. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    Calgary, Alberta, Canada Zone 3a
    Don't stay in your cave too long earthy smells. Healthy debate is a great learning experience for me. Also let us know how your project goes.

  17. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA
    Check this out.
    This has strongly reinforced my views!

    PDF version:
    http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda ...ral Myths_files/Myths/Horticultural peat.pdf

    Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Urban Horticulturist and Associate Professor,
    Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University

    The Myth of Permanent Peatlands:

    "Peat moss is an environmentally friendly organic amendment essential for many
    horticultural purposes"

    The Myth

    Peatlands are specialized types of wetlands whose value to human civilization has been
    recognized for centuries. Perhaps the most continued use of peatlands is as a fuel source:
    chunks of peat are cut from bogs, dried, and used for cooking and heating purposes. Though
    many societies have turned to other forms of energy production, this practice continues today
    especially where other fuel sources are absent.
    Peat moss, a principal plant component of peatlands, has also been an important part of the
    horticulture industry; it’s used as a soil amendment both in gardens and container plants and as
    an aesthetic topdressing for potted plants and floral arrangements. Consisting primarily of
    Sphagnum species, peat moss has an amazing capacity to hold water like a sponge, slowly
    releasing it as the surrounding soil dries out. Since peat is 100% natural, it must be a truly
    “green” gardening product – right?

    The Reality

    The “greenness” of any product is determined both by the environmental friendliness of the
    product and its method of production. Unfortunately, there is no economically realistic,
    environmentally friendly way to harvest peat moss. This is a natural resource that accumulates at
    the glacially slow rate of 0.5 – 1.0 mm per year, or about ¼ of an inch. Peat harvesting involves
    the removal of deep layers of peat that have literally taken centuries to accumulate. In fact, since
    harvesting implies sustainability, it is more accurate to describe commercial peat removal as
    While peat used for fuel can be necessary for human survival, that used for modern horticultural
    purposes is not and therefore represents luxury consumption.
    For consumers to make an
    informed decision about whether or not to use peat moss requires an understanding of the roles
    peatlands play in the environment. Like other wetlands, these systems help purify and store
    water. Perhaps most important is that they are the single largest terrestrial store of carbon,
    equivalent to 75% of all carbon in the atmosphere (CC-GAP, 2005). Paradoxically, the
    destruction of peatlands is not yet recognized as a significant part of global climate change.
    Most damaging to educational efforts regarding peatland conservation is industry assertions that
    there are no substitutes for peat moss in horticultural applications. Similarly, there is often a
    perception that this natural resource cannot be diminished; sales material from one local peat
    producer claims their supply of peat from a 150-acre lake is “virtually limitless.” One industry
    group asserts that “peat is still the only affordable and readily available substrate that can be used
    to grow all kinds of plants….It is still the underpinning of the horticulture industry, worldwide.”

    The focus by many peat moss producers is on restoration of peat bogs with little, if any, mention
    of viable alternatives.

    Peatland restoration

    Peatlands degraded by mining activity do not revert to their former functionality; changes in
    hydrology and physical structure are hostile to Sphagnum re-establishment. Recently, degraded
    peatlands have been restored through the blockage of drainage ditches, seeding with Sphagnum,
    and application of a mulch layer to reduce water loss. When degraded peatlands are restored, the
    ability to hold water is improved but CO2 continues to be released by high levels of bacterial
    respiration, which represents the decomposition of mulch and other organic matter. It takes a
    number of years for the photosynthetic rate of new peatland plants to outpace the respiratory
    rate: until this happens, even restored peatlands represent a net loss of carbon to the atmosphere
    and thus contribute to greenhouse gas production. These results have been reported by more
    than one research team, representing global peatland research.

    Peat moss alternatives

    While the efforts to restore degraded peatlands are admirable, it is more environmentally and
    economically sound to reduce luxury use of peat and promote viable alternatives.
    Contrary to
    what some peat moss producers claim, there are many economically feasible, environmentally
    sustainable substitutes for horticultural peat. International research on peat alternatives dates
    back at least 30 years and has identified a plethora of materials whose easy availability, low cost,
    and sustainability make them attractive substitutes for peat moss. These materials, alone or in
    combination, ranging from traditional materials such as composted bark, yard and agricultural
    wastes, and livestock manures to more current waste products including brewing waste, coconut
    coir, olive mill waste, pulp and paper sludge, municipal solid waste and sewage sludge, and even
    foam cubes.
    These materials have been used in the rooting and/or production of many plant
    materials, including vegetables, annual flowers, houseplants, woody ornamentals, and timber
    Granted, there have been initial problems with some of these materials, including high levels of
    heavy metals or salts, or suboptimal carbon:nitrogen ratios. Research continues to address these
    problems, refining the methods needed to produce high-quality alternatives. In fact, many of
    these alternative substrates have repeatedly performed better than peat in terms of plant vigor and
    quality. If this isn’t enough of an incentive to switch to peat alternatives, consider these other
    documented benefits:

    • Economically sustainable when using locally produced materials

    • Reuse of agricultural and timber waste products that otherwise contribute to landfills

    • Ability to decrease fertilizer applications by using a more nutrient rich medium

    • Increased drought resistance of transplants when grown in media with less water holding
    capacity than peat moss

    Peatland conservation

    In 1971 the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was established in response to public concern over
    increasing degradation of wetlands, including peatlands. The Convention’s mission combines
    conservation with sustainable use of wetlands through international action and cooperation. The
    Coordinating Committee for Global Action on Peatlands (CC-GAP) was established by the
    Ramsar Convention in 2002 “to monitor and guide global action for peatland management.”
    This was a formal recognition that "peatlands are a vital part of the world's wetland resources" as
    well as their "importance to the maintenance of global diversity and for the storage of water and
    carbon, which constitute a function vital to the world's climate system.” Among the Guidelines
    for Global Action on Peatlands published by CC-GAP are these two:

    • “Citizens should be provided with information and educational materials that will enable
    them to make informed choices concerning lifestyle and consumer behavior compatible
    with the wise use of peatlands.”

    • “Research into, and development of, appropriate sustainable alternatives to peat in, for
    example, horticultural use, should be encouraged.”
    It is important to recognize that the Ramsar Convention and its affiliated groups do not promote
    a hands-off approach to peatlands. On the contrary, CC-GAP encourages sustainable use of
    peatlands, described as “those uses of mires and peatlands for which reasonable people now and
    in the future will not attribute blame.” Such uses balance natural resource conservation and
    carbon protection with economic needs.
    Some countries have more quickly responded to the global crisis of degraded peatlands. In the
    United Kingdom, for example, much of the peat extraction for horticultural purposes has been
    reduced or eliminated. The UK Peat Producers’ Association and the mushroom industry (the
    second-largest user of horticultural peat) have commissioned research on peat alternatives and
    develop peat-free products. Many UK websites, including Kew Gardens, carry information on
    peat alternatives.

    Finally, some countries such as South Africa have neither peatlands nor resources to import peat
    moss. These countries have managed to find suitable substitutes for horticultural peat moss and
    have sustainable plant production industries. To suggest these substitutes do not exist is
    deceptive; to destroy a natural resource for luxury consumption is unconscionable.

    The Bottom Line

    • Peatlands are biodiverse ecosystems with important environmental functions in water
    quality and carbon storage

    • Degraded peatlands are environmentally non-functional, resulting increased water loss,
    poorer water quality, and decreased storage of atmospheric carbon

    • Restored peatlands are partially functional as they can reduce water loss, but they
    contribute even more to global CO2 production than degraded peatlands

    • Peat moss is a non-renewable resource whose replacement takes centuries

    • Horticultural peat moss can be reduced and/or replaced by using a number of available
    materials that are both economically feasible and environmentally friendly

    • Consumers need to be fully informed as to the environmental function of peatlands as
    well as alternatives to horticultural peat moss
    Additional Web Resources
    CC-GAP. 2005. Peatlands. Do You Care? Coordinating Committee for Global Action on
    Peatlands (CC-GAP). Available at http://www.imcg.net/imcgpubl.htm.
    Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. http://www.ramsar.org/
  18. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA
  19. cowboy

    cowboy Active Member

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    Calgary, AB

    Very well said. Very measured, very eloquent.

    When I was a child in the old country we burned peat in winter. This peat was dug from a communal peat bog. It went into a screw press that extruded a ribbon of semi-dry peat. The ribbon was cut with a shovel and the piece was carried away and laid out for drying. It was a long walk at the end of the day to find an empty spot. When the peat was dry, it was shared amongst all the participants. The last time I went by that peat bog, it was covered by an office building. North Sea gas now heats the houses.
  20. Durgan

    Durgan Contributor 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Brantford,Ontario, Canada
    All those reasons and arguments for not using peat moss! It is simply not required.

    Peat moss is useless in the garden. That is sufficient reason for not using the stuff.

    The commercial bags are slurried for handling, and the particles are so very small that they completely disappear into any soil in which it is mixed, with no benefit for man or plant or bug.

    Vegetative compost is far superior for conditioning soil; of course, it has to be better from my opening statement, since peat moss is utterly useless.

    The discussion is well meaning, but not necessary if one realizes just how useless is this product for garden use. And as someone kindly pointed out the Irish no longer require it for heat. I know of no other uses, certainly on a commercial basis.
  21. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

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    USA, MA
    That's the problem: People think it has a use and is needed. I see people on other boards ferociously defending it's use

    People on other boards are telling me it's essential for their blueberry crops and it's the best way for *them* to add acidity to their soil for them

    Then there are people telling me it is necessary for their trees and potting needs because it holds moisture best in pots and is cheapest
  22. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

    Likes Received:
    USA, MA
    Here's a quote from someone on another board:

    "There are several reasons to use peat instead of compost.

    Peat is more stable. It doesn't break down in a season to nothing. When one wants volume that doesn't shrink to nothing over a season peat is preferable to compost.

    It's acidic. For blueberries or anyone looking to acidify their soil there is no natural substance available that acidifies as well or as long as peat. For those not wanting the acidity of peat a little natural lime goes a long way to neutralizing it.

    Peat holds a ton of water. For plantings that need to retain moisture for a long time, peat will hold more water longer than compost.

    Peat has a decent CEC ratio meaning it hangs onto nutrients just like compost does.

    I am not here to sing the praises of peat, it's just one thing we gardeners can get reasonably priced, but I never allow a post slamming peat as an environmental disaster to go unchallenged. It just isn't true.

    The Canadian government regulates the peat industry so they harvest less per year than natural new growth."
  23. earthy smells

    earthy smells Member

    Likes Received:
    USA, MA
    And he continues with :

    "If I want to acidify the soil with material that will retain moisture well then peat is better than compost. I use 90% peat, 10% native soil for my blueberries. I don't know of anything that would substitute as well. Compost isn't acidic enough.

    If I want to grow a fruit tree in a container then peat is better than compost because peat doesn't break down as quickly as compost.

    Whether one is better than the other depends on what the application is.

    Peat has it's uses and it's harvest isn't causing large scale problems. Sure, the area harvested is 'destroyed', but that's true of harvesting anything. The condition is temporary."
  24. chemicalx

    chemicalx Active Member

    Likes Received:
    Torrance, CA; USA
    The biggest problem I have is finding storebought potting soils that are labeled with their contents. Most of them do have peat moss, and I'd like to make sure I buy those that don't. Quite frustrating! I wish there would be some kind of regulations on labeling.
  25. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

    Likes Received:
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada Zone 3a
    You raised a good question chemicalx. In Canada its legally required that food products list aa contents on the label. I find there are similar labels on organic products and fertalizers but is it a legal requirement here I wonder?


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