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Peat Free Gardening (5)

How to use Peat Free Compost

Peat has been such a useful component of our garden compost mixes over the years, but now we know better! Peat free compost mixes are now readily available, but you may need to revise some of your habits to get the best out of them. All of this advice has come from Garden Organic.

Buying peat free bags

  1. Be sure to get the right mix for the right stage in your plant’s life. Seed sowing, potting on, cuttings etc. There are also mixes for ericaceous and other acid loving plants.

  2. Peat-free compost can be a little more expensive. It’s worth it. And it’s worth spending more within the peat-free range itself. Cheap peat-free will almost certainly disappoint.

  3. Garden Organic recommends producers which only make peat-free mixes, such as Melcourt (Sylvagrow range), Dalefoot (Lakeland Gold) and Fertile Fibre

  4. Read the label carefully. Beware those which say ‘Reduced peat’ – these can still hold up to 80% peat in the mix. Ignore claims of ‘not from an environmentally sensitive site’ – all peat bogs are sensitive habitats. And ‘organic’ doesn’t necessarily mean peat free.

Tips for using peat free compost New peat-free composts perform excellently. But you might notice they have a different texture, which requires a slight change in watering habits. Watering

  • Because of their high coir and woodchip content, peat-free mixes have a tendency to dry out more easily. They also have a course texture, which can appear dry on the surface but still damp further down.

  • Check by putting your finger in the soil to see if it’s dry all the way through.

  • Watering little and often is best.

  • Don’t let them dry out otherwise they can be difficult to water again, as the water runs off the top. If this does happen, soak the whole pot in a bucket of water to let it draw up the moisture.

Feeding All bagged composts have CRFs (controlled release fertilisers) included which will feed the plant over a period of just a few weeks. Peat-based composts claim to feed for up to 6 weeks, while most peat-free composts provide fertiliser up to 4 weeks. If you observe your plants on a regular basis you will know if they need extra feeding. Use liquid feeds, such as home-made comfrey tea. With more mature plants, we recommend adding in some homemade compost into the mix. It helps with structure, and provides slow release nutrients over a period of months.


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