There are a host of different soils and growing mediums available to buy online or in the garden centre. Some are soil based, some are peat based, some use other materials such as green waste or coir fibre.
In recent years there has been a move away from using peat based growing media because it’s just not sustainable. Peat comes from bogs where it has taken thousands of years to form. We gardeners are harvesting it and using it faster than Nature can make it – and so we have severely damaged sensitive ecosystems. It’s time to stop harvesting peat before we lose these valuable habitats for good.
Good Alternatives To Peat-based Growing Media
As a gardener, I’m finding this one difficult. I’ve always used peat based growing media to raise plants and now I’m having to change my mindset – I think I’m getting there though.
I’ve tried coir for raising plants – it’s had some good reviews in the gardening press but didn’t work for me personally.
I like soil based growing media for growing seedlings and young plants. I don’t use vast quantities of it so tend to buy small bags of branded products from the garden center. They’re all really well labelled so I can see whether or not they’re peat-free and I can see what they’re suitable for.
For mulching and soil improvement I’ve yet to find anything that beats home-made compost. Sadly, now that my children have left home, I don’t have as many potato peelings as I used to have so my compost heap is not as big as it needs to be. From time to time I buy in bark for mulching paths and borders and I save the compost to use in the polytunnel.
For potting on flowering plants, raising tomatoes and peppers and for topping up my raised beds, my favourite peat-free soil is this rich organic soil ordered online from soilonline.co.uk
It’s not unlike peat in some ways – it has a lovely friable texture, holds water well and seems to be gentle to plants. I like that it’s nowhere near as heavy as sandy or clay-based topsoils and it doesn’t have stones in it.
It actually comes from a potato farm – it’s what gets washed off the spuds before they’re sent to the supermarket – so I know it’s good stuff and it’s not damaged any ecosystems to harvest it.
I’ve not tried organic loam for sowing seeds in the greenhouse, but it certainly works well for the peas, beans, and salad crops that I sow directly into the soil outside.
Where To Buy Peat-free Soil
Buying it in big bags is more cost effective than in the little shrink wrapped ones from the garden centre, plus there’s less packaging to dispose of. (I use the empty bags for storing firewood)
You can also buy peat-free products from the garden centre – be sure to read the label carefully though “eco-friendly” isn’t the same as “peat-free”. If you’re not sure, ask.