The main reason peat moss is added to soil is because it helps the soil retain moisture. However, peat moss is a nonrenewable resource. It is a vital element of peat bogs and wetland habitats, so it makes sense to conserve it. For that reason, many gardeners look for renewable, organic alternatives to using peat moss in the garden. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to peat moss.
Adding compost or composted manure to your soil is an alternative to adding peat moss. Mix the compost into the soil about 6 to 8 inches deep. Compost is any organic matter that is decayed. You can create your own compost in the backyard using a variety of means, from tumbler composters to just a pile. Decayed compost will eventually turn to humus, a rich, organic matter filled with beneficial organisms. Compost and humus fertilize the soil and help it to retain water.
If your purpose for using peat moss was as a mulch to help the soil retain water for the root systems of plants, then substitute other mulch instead. Any bagged mulching material will suffice. You may also use black plastic. Create your own mulch by using compost by not letting the compost break down to the point of humus. If you're planning to use your compost as mulch, simply use the organic materials before they reach a fully decomposed state. Sawdust, weathered hay, or ground up leaves, twigs and chunks of bark all make good mulch materials.
Instead of buying peat-based pots for your seeds, either make your own or buy some other sort of pot. The advantage of peat-based pots for seeds is that they are biodegradable. So is paper. You can create your own temporary seed pots using cardboard box material, newspaper, writing paper or the interior paper cylinder of toilet paper or paper towel rolls. You may also use recyclable egg cartons, milk cartons or jugs, and paper cups. Just put a slit in the bottom to allow for drainage.
Avoid Commercial Potting Soil and Mulch
If you're serious about eliminating peat moss from your organic garden, then beware of commercial potting soils or bagged commercial mulches. Carefully read the labels of any commercial potting soil or mulches you buy, as they often contain peat moss.
In "Coir Dust: A Viable Alternative to Peat Moss," Alan W. Meerow argues that coir is a suitable alternative to peat moss. Coir is the fibrous product in the middle layer of a coconut fruit.
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