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Peat Soil Is Not The Way To Go

Peat soil cut into bricks.

This one is for the plant and garden lovers. You might be using peat soil for its great ability to help soil drain while also retaining nutrients, allowing your plants to flourish and grow. But as you may have guessed, peat soil is not sustainable at all.

Peat grows in peat bogs, which make up 3% of the Earth's land mass. Peat is formed out of layers of partially decomposed plant matter, taking on the appearance of a light and spongy soil. The bogs that it grows in are also some of the best carbon sinks on the planet, storing about 30% of the world's carbon.

Related: A Man Named Girard: Pet Plant Documentary

The problem with peat bogs is that harvesting them for peat soil changes them from the most efficient natural carbon storage to one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. According to Stone Pier Press (linked in the following paragraph), peat bogs are estimated to release 1.3 gigatons of carbon annually when they are damaged. And although they are sustainable, they are not practical: natural peat accumulation comes at a rate of 2mm per year, or 2.5cm every 25 years, according to The Guardian. So far, about 15% of the world's peat bogs have been destroyed.

Moorland peat bog in Sutherland. Photo cred Andrew Tryon
Moorland peat bog in Sutherland. Photo cred Andrew Tryon

So, now that we know peat moss and soil is not the way to go when it comes to gardening, are there alternatives? Since the world is a little bit forgiving, the answer is yes. Stone Pier Press has a recipe for a peat-free potting soil. Mix together 1.25 gallons of pumice stone, which has the same water draining benefit of peat, with 1.25 gallons of organic compost (we'll have a post about this soon). Combine that with 2.5 gallons of coconut coir, the byproduct of coconut husks (and it is also great for growing mushrooms), and you've got yourself an eco-friendly potting mix that has all the benefits of peat soil!

If you want to take an extra step, encourage your local gardening center to not buy and sell any peat products. There is no need for peat as there are sustainable alternatives, and the carbon that peat bogs hold onto is way better off being held in the Earth than it is in our atmosphere.


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