Bumbleseeds Approves Peat Free Gardening
One of our favourite gardening guru’s is Monty Don. Monty made his television debut in 1989 on the morning show in Britain. Today, Monty is the leading British broadcaster and writer on gardening and horticulture, and is best known as the lead presenter of the BBC gardening television show Gardener’s World.
Monty has travelled the world writing primarily about gardening. As of 2003, Gardener’s World was filmed at his family property known as ‘Longmeadow. Monty’s two acre property isdivided into several different areas including the Cottage Garden, the Jewel Garden, the Islamic-inspired Paradise Garden, and the Vegetable Garden.
We are confident that Monty has many followers; all of his books about various global garden designs (French Gardens, English Gardens and Italian Gardens to name a few) are inspirational. Monty’s television show ‘Gardener’s World’ is also quite informative and a great resource as it touches on the basics from simple planting and ‘pricking out’ techniques to more complicated topics such as pruning, espaliers and growing advice for all kinds of plants.
Monty Don is still writing and his show gets better with every season. Monty is known to always be on a mission - he is now urging everyone to embrace the natural world and is encouraging all of us to do our part to preserve it - starting in our own backyards - for the betterment of not just for humans but for every living creature. With that mantra, Monty is creating an awareness about the downfalls of using peat and is openly voicing his opinion about the immediate need for all of us to focus on the climate and avoiding the use of compost made from peat, and all plants grown in it. https://www.montydon.com/tips-and-advice
What’s Down with Peat?
Many disadvantages have been unearthed regarding peat as a soil additive for the environment and the peat used to produce garden compost is mainly derived from peat bogs. When a bog is mined, one of the first things to go is the water buffer; water that would normally be stored in the bog runs much more quickly to waterways and increases the chances of flooding areas. Once removed, the same volume of peat cannot be grown back in a human lifetime!
5 Reasons not to use peat:
- Valuable ecosystems containing rare and endangered species that live in and around peatlands threaten their survival or are destroyed when peatland bogs are mined and drained.
- Peatlands contain one of the world's most important carbon stores. When peat is spread on a field or garden, the carbon quickly turns into carbon dioxide adding to greenhouse gas
- Half a million tons of greenhouse gases are released back into the atmosphere contributing to global warming.
- The unique biodiversityof peat bogs are being irreversibly lost. Rare birds, insects and plants such as the insect-eating pitcher plants, red-capped and long-necked sandhill cranes, large heath butterflies, and dragonflies disappear.
- For years gardeners trusted peatas a valuable growing medium however it’s not always ideal; it is not nutrient rich, makes a poor mulch and quickly dries out - and it is easily blown away. Other better and environmentally friendly soil options are available.
Since the 1990s, it has become increasingly apparent in the news that the depletion of peat bogs was proceeding at an astounding rate and contrary to what many people think, peat is not replenished in a sensible time frame. It takes hundreds of years for a peat bog to reform. According to one article on the CBC website however, it states that researchers have found ways to reclaim a bog ecosystem if only part of the peat layer has been stripped away. And further research says that much of the planet’s peat remains intact, and Canada actually has over 200 million acres left -about 1/4 of the world's supply. Read the article here https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/peat-moss-gardening-1.5411539
All Canadian provinces regulate peatland use as they are protected in Canada; this means only a small percentage can be harvested and it must be done responsibly, with a plan to regenerate the bogs. This is however, no uniform national policy on whether and how they should be harvested. The Canadian Wildlife Federation published an article by Asha Jhamandas about the pros and cons or using peat. Jhamandas writes that agricultural development has been the single greatest cause of wetland loss in Canada since settlement, claiming about 15 per cent, and peat harvesting has had the smallest impact of about 0.02 per cent.
According to a 2001 issues paper published by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, in partnership with Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service, and the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association: ‘If you put all of Canada's peatlands into the United States, they would cover the size of Washington, Nevada, Oregon and California,’ says Hood. ‘And the size of what we’re harvesting is smaller than the city of Portland, Oregon.’
The article also goes on to say that ‘coco coir, or coconut fibre husk, is a product imported via ocean vessels from Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Mexico, and it has many of the same characteristics as peat. But is expensive to buy and the supply is only about 10 per cent of what is required for the horticultural industry,’ says Hood. ‘It is also cleaned with brackish water and so may have a high salt content. It would be the closest alternative to peat, but there are problems — shipping, quality control and cost’.
As there are other renewable and sustainable options available such as compost and leaf mould which can both be made in your own backyard, and if cannot produce sawdust, shredded bark or wood chips — all renewable resources (well, that’s another debate so we won’t go there) you can purchase these from garden centers or online.
And that leads us to another sustainable option: Coconut coir, also known as coco peat, is one of the best alternatives to peat moss. Coconut coir is readily renewable, pH-neutral, non-hydrophobic soil amendment that aerates, improves water retention, and is more environmentally friendly than peat moss.
Peat is reported to hold several times its weight in water ( reported as 10-20 times); more so than that of coconut coir which only holds an average of 8 to 9 times its weight in water however some sources say coir holds more water – up to 30 percent more and the argument continues. The simple fact that greenhouse gasses are greatly reduced far outweighs the benefits of peat at whatever level of moisture it retains – but then again, arguments continue as coconut coir has to be shipped by ocean!
Benefits of Coconut Coir:
- Coco coir is a renewable resource; it is made from the fiber of coconut shells. When coconuts are harvested, the long fibers of the husks are used for things such as doormats, brushes, upholstery stuffing, and rope.
- Makes an excellent mulch for gardeners who require a mulch that offers plenty of drainage and aeration.
- Retains its physical properties longer and with less shrinkage.
- Excellent wettability-superior to peat as it has a unique water holding capacity.
- Similar to peat in terms of look, feel, and moisture retention.
As you can see, the debate continues…
Bumbleseeds is all about empowering the pollinators. We choose to stand with Monty Don and all of the others who are opposed to peat and feel our ecosystems, including rare and endangered birds, butterflies, dragonflies and plants, are important. If using alternatives to peat can help reduce greenhouse gasses then we want to help make a difference - We choose peat free.