Although almost all garden soils contain it, there are now plenty of environmentally-friendly alternatives to peat. Learn about the many peat alternatives available and get tips on peat-free gardening here.
The use of peat is problematic for the environment, making finding substitutes for peat an important climate protection issue. Read on to find out what makes peat so useful in gardening and what alternatives are better options for a greener future. If you’re unfamiliar with this valuable resource, visit our dedicated article on peat to learn what it is and where it comes from.
Why is peat found in garden soil?
Peat retains water without causing root rot, making it a great base for garden and potting soil. Its pH level and nutrient content are also flexible depending on your plant’s needs. To top it off, it is light-weight when dry, making it relatively cheap and easy to transport.
Unfortunately, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Peat is a finite resource, and its extraction and use release CO2, which would otherwise remain stored in the ground. Furthermore, the continued extraction of peat prevents former peatlands from recovering and resuming their work as CO2 reservoirs. Because of these disadvantages, it is important for both professional and amateur gardeners to use peat substitutes whenever possible.
Tip: head on over to our online shop to discover our range of peat-free and peat-reduced organic garden soils. Using our Plantura Organic Potting Compost will help you to limit your CO2 footprint and help preserve our precious peatlands.
Protecting the environment should be close to the heart of every gardening enthusiast. And the good news is that forgoing peat does not mean your plants need to suffer, as there are many peat alternatives to choose from. Check out these alternatives that make gardening without peat possible.
Wood fibre and chips
Both wood fibre and chips are made from untreated wood scraps. Wood chips are coarse, making them ideal for increasing the soil’s drainage. Whilst wood fibre is finer and less structurally stable, it also provides a loose, airy substrate. Bear in mind, wood materials cannot store nutrients or much water. Apart from our Plantura Organic Lawn Compost, all of our Plantura organic composts contain wood fibre.
Compost has the advantage that it has a high pH and a good structure. Compost can effectively store and release nutrients as well as water, which is why we include it in all of our Plantura Organic Composts. Our quality-assured composts are also free of plant pathogens and weeds.
Sand can act as a source of iron in substrates, but otherwise stores very little nutrients. As it is very heavy, mixtures with sand are great for outdoor plant containers, as the extra weight helps prevent strong winds from blowing your plants over. A substrate mixture that includes sand, such as our Plantura Organic Lawn Compost, also ensures good water drainage and root aeration.
Bentonite is a natural clay mixture containing various minerals. The clay swells as it absorbs water, making them effective for increasing a soil’s water retention capacity. Bentonite clay can also absorb, store and release nutrients to the plants as and when needed. Due to the fact that it greatly improves soil fertility, we include bentonite clay in our Plantura Organic Flower Compost and Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost.
Expanded clay is formed by intensely heating clay. Compared with the starting material, expanded clay retains very little water and nutrients. Adding the right amount to your soil mixture can greatly improve the soil’s water permeability which, in turn, allows air to circulate your plants’ roots better.
Coconut materials are structurally stable, but store very few nutrients. Coconut pulp is scraped from the inside of coconut shells. Coconut fibres, also called coconut coir or coco coir, are removed from the outside of the coconut and cut into small pieces. Coconut chips are formed by shaping coconut fibres to have a similar shape to wood chips. Coconut fibres and chips retain relatively little water compared to peat, but allow for superior drainage in your soil and are great for aeration. Because it has similar properties to white peat, we include coconut pulp in all of our Plantura Organic Composts.
Rice husks, also called rice hulls, are removed from rice grains during the milling process. Adding rice husks to soil is a lightweight way of loosening soil and increasing its permeability. However, they cannot store large amounts of water or nutrients.
- Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
- For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Perlite is a volcanic glass that expands and becomes porous under high heat. It is pH neutral and retains some water. Perlite does not hold nutrients, but adding the right amount to your soil mixture helps to create a well-aerated and well-draining substrate. This is especially important for young plants, which is why we include perlite in our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost.
Pine bark is obtained from pine trees. It is structurally stable and, when mixed into soil, allows for good aeration. Whilst pine bark contains little nutrients, it can be adapted to the needs of each plant with fertiliser and lime.
- Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
- For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Xylit is a by-product of lignite mining. It is structurally stable and provides an airy substrate while retaining water.
Some honourable mentions for peat-free alternatives include bark humus, brick rubble, vermiculite and compost soil. Our Plantura Organic Potting Composts contain high-quality composts that will help keep your plants happy and healthy.
Check out our article on compost to learn more about what it is made from and to find out how you can use it as fertiliser. If you prefer planting directly in your garden bed, check out these tips on how to improve your garden’s soil.