Why Not Use Peat Moss?

Just the other day I wrote a post about making organic potting soil with peat moss as one of the major components.

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According to http://www.peatmoss.com

“Canadian sphagnum peat moss is a natural, organic soil conditioner that regulates moisture and air around plant roots for ideal growing conditions. It will help to:

  • Save Water.
  • Aerate Heavy, Clay Soil.
  • Bind Sandy Soil.
  • Reduce Leaching.
  • Protect Soil.
  • Make Better Compost.”

Then I started doing some research on Peat Moss. I found that peat moss is not a readily renewable resource at the rate we are currently consuming it.

Peat moss is the partially decomposed remains of formerly living sphagnum moss from bogs.

Peat moss is mined, which involves scraping off the top layer of living sphagnum moss. The sphagnum peat bog above the mined product is a habitat for plants like sundews, butterwort and bog rosemary, as well as rare and endangered animals like dragonflies, frogs and birds, not to mention the living moss itself.

Yes, peat moss is a renewable resource, but it can take hundreds to thousands of years to form.

read more: http://gardenrant.com/2009/04/ken-druse-dishes-the-dirt-about-peat-moss.html

Wow, I never thought of all that…. and all this time I’ve been using peat moss without even thinking of the long term consequences. (H’mmm how common is that?)

So I started my search for substitutes and found that there are a couple of good ones: Coconut Coir and Leaf Mold.

Coconut coir is one material being suggested as a good replacement for peat moss. It’s a byproduct of the coconut processing industry. It’s made from the fibers found between the husk and shell of a mature ripe coconut. The brown fibers are high in lignin and are water-proof.”Coco” doormats and stuffing for automobile seats and mattresses are made from coconut coir fiber.

read more: http://askjo.co/12y8jrC

You should be able to get coconut coir at your local garden store, though I haven’t shopped for it since I discovered the other good peat moss substitute is easier for me to get (and free)!

Leaf mold is the result of leaves on the forest floor decomposing. You can’t buy it, but all you need to make it are leaves, moisture and time. I had thought to mix leaves in with my compost, and you can do this to a small degree if you chop the leaves up finely, but the kind of decomposition of a compost pile is slightly different. Leaf mold relies almost exclusively on fungus and compost relies more on bacteria (as well as fungus).

At any rate, leaves are something we have plenty of!

Catching up with Autumn

“Catching up with Autumn” by McKay Savage used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

In fact my dear husband thinks we might be able to break a record for the largest human-raked leaf pile. It’s not as tall now after some heavy rains (thank you Tropical Storm Andrea), but it was quite impressive this fall! And all raked by hand (no leaf blower for us.:-)

The leaf pile

Unfortunately, it takes at least 6 months to a year to make leaf mold. I did read that you can speed up the creation of leaf mold by layering leaves with some alfalfa meal or other “activator” (I have to look into this more…) But since this giant leaf pile has been growing since 2001, I think I could probably get all the leaf mold I need by digging under and around the edges of it.

So, I’m a convert. No more peat moss for me. It’s leaf mold all the way for my organic potting soil. I read that leaf mold makes a really nice mulch for perennial beds too.

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