Peat-free compost | Magazine horticulture (2023)



  • What is peat-free compost?
  • Procurement of peat-free compost
  • What is it made of?
  • What are its benefits?
  • What do you use peat-free compost for?
  • How to make peat-free compost
  • frequently asked Questions


all purpose
Clay based
Peat based
potting soil

Peat is a natural accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter.

It is found in areas of bogs, bogs, bogs, and bogs.

What is peat-free compost?

Peat-free compost, as the name suggests, is any compost that does not contain peat.

Peat has traditionally been used to make potting soil as it offers a number of benefits for growing plants.

However, environmentally conscious people have realized that digging up valuable peat ecosystems to grow our crops is not a sustainable or environmentally friendly choice.[Those]

(Video) Why go peat free? | Royal Horticultural Society

As a result, consumers and compost producers are increasingly turning to alternative options – these peat-free composts have historically been considered inferior to peat-based potting mix products.

But research and development has now produced a range of products that can rival or even surpass peat-based options.

Procurement of peat-free compost

Gardeners can either make their own peat-free compost and potting mixes (see below) or purchase a product that has a label that says it's peat-free.

However, the watering and fertilization requirements are usually slightly different for peat-free growing media than for peat-based options.

One important thing to note about peat-free composts is that they can vary significantly in their ingredients and potency. Some are way better than others.

Usually the price indicates how good a peat-free compost will be. The results of using a cheaper peat-free compost option are usually more variable, and if you pay a little more you'll tend to see better results.

Don't be fooled by terms on a label like "organic" or "eco-friendly" - such wording doesn't always guarantee that a compost or potting mix is ​​peat-free.

What is it made of?

Peat-free compost and potting mixes can be made using a number of different ingredients according to a number of different recipes.

Most peat-free options contain one or more of the following properties:

  • Woody materials (bark, wood fibers, sawdust, etc.)
  • Coconut Shell (Coconut)
  • Urban green waste (typically no more than 30% of the final product).
  • Adlerfarn
  • Strohabfall
  • Waste sheep's wool.

A homemade growing medium usually consists of:

  • Homemade compost (made from brown, carbon-rich and green, nitrogen-rich materials).
  • Blattform
  • Clay or sand (inorganic soil components)

What are its benefits?

A peat-free growing medium is much better for our planet. Using peat just isn't an option for everyone who wants to garden sustainably and with the environment in mind.

Peat originates primarily from lowland raised bogs, which are an increasingly rare habitat type in the UK and across Europe.[Those]

Peat bogs are important wetlands that play an important role in the water cycle, flood control, and drinking water supply and filtration.

(Video) For Peat's Sake - Don't Deprive UK Gardeners!

In the UK, more than 28 million people use drinking water from water sources that rely on peatlands.[Those]

And worldwide, peatlands provide nearly 4% of all drinking water stored in reservoirs.[Those]

The distinctive environmental conditions of peat wetlands mean that they provide crucial habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Wetland conservation is critical to maintaining biodiversity and halting biodiversity loss. Wetlands are the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems and it is vital that we protect these precious ecosystems.

In addition, the protection of peatlands is also crucial for carbon sequestration. Peat ecosystems store more CO2 than any other type of vegetation, including the world's forests.[Those]

Peat covers only 3% of the Earth's land area, but stores a third of the Earth's soil carbon.[Those]

When we extract peat for horticulture, we are accelerating the destruction of these precious ecosystems and contributing to the climate crisis.

The problem is that while peat does regrow naturally, it grows very slowly (about 1mm per year). We use it up much faster than it can be replaced naturally.

Peat-free growing media can be a far more sustainable and environmentally friendly choice. However, it is important to look closely at what goes into a peat-free compost and where it comes from.

When choosing peat-free compost we need to consider aspects such as water retention, water distribution and nutrient supply.

We must balance our own needs and the needs of our plants with the needs of the planet and humanity as a whole in order to make the right compost choices for our gardens.

What do you use peat-free compost for?

Peat-free composts vary greatly. Some are considered all-purpose composts that can be used on a variety of different plants at all stages of their growth.

Some are specifically designed for seed or for growing in containers. Others are specially designed for thisHeather (acid loving) plants.

(Video) Peat Free Compost Review EP3. - SupaGrow Organic Compost 100% Peat Free. Garden Plastic Pollution.

Pay attention to what exactly is in a peat-free compost and read about which plants it is suitable for.

  • Wood-based mixturestend to be suitable for most plants due to their excellent drainage properties and low pH.
  • Coconutretains water well and maintains good aeration, but does not retain nutrients well.
  • organic waste, where this is used, has a high nutrient content. But has a high pH and may not always be the best option for seed starter and pot mixes.
  • Adlerfarnis rich in potash
  • sheep woolprovides slow release nitrogen and is good for water retention.

Make sure you choose (or create) a potting soil that is appropriate for the plants you intend to grow.

How to make peat-free compost

It is entirely possible to make your own peat-free compost/potting mix.

There are a number of different recipes that combine home made compost containing organic matter with leaf soil and soil constituents such as clay/sand.

Of course, if you decide to make your own, the results may vary.

One problem is that if you use a soil component, weeds and fungal pathogens can creep in.

Personally, I've had little trouble using a mixture of 1/3 compost (which includes well-rotted chicken manure and bedding, as well as kitchen scraps and shredded wood material from the garden), 1/3 leaf mold, and 1/3 clay soil to start my seeds.

If you have problems with damping off when sowing seeds in this mix, you can sterilize the loam/soil with your oven.

PH, moisture retention and available nutrients are variable. But good composting practices can help you establish a successful system and create a potting soil suitable for a wide range of edibles and other plants.

You can also go for a soilless recipe and use woody materials or coir to create the right mix.

Although coco is a waste product, it's worth noting that it may not be the most environmentally friendly choice either, as it has to travel a long way to reach us.

frequently asked Questions

Is peat-free compost good for vegetables?

A peat-free compost can be great for growing vegetables in your garden, regardless of whether you use ita top layer for a no-grab garden bedor as a mulch around your growing plants.

Some peat-free compost can also be useful for filling containers for sowing seeds and growing vegetables in pots.

(Video) Peat Free Compost Review EP2. - Westlands Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes

It's worth noting, however, that depending on composition and ingredients, a peat-free compost may require different watering habits than if you're using peat-based substrates.

You may also need to think about adding extra nutrients. Different peat-free formulations have different balances of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and other nutrients required for good plant growth.

Other organic mulches, companion plantings, organic fertilizer pellets, and organic liquid plant foods are all ways to add nutrients to an organic garden.

Is it good for carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous plants naturally come from peaty, swampy environments. So you can imagine that a peat-based medium is required to grow these plants.

However, it is (fortunately) not necessary to destroy the natural environment of these plants in order to grow them in pots.

Not all peat-free composts are suitable for growing these plants. Many commercially available mixes are not suitable at all, and some give mixed results.

But the key to successfully growing these plants is mimicking the core ideas of their natural environment—not necessarily replicating the conditions exactly.

You can recreate the conditions with peat-free alternatives such as a mix of Melcourt Growbark pine, perlite and lime-free chippings.

Fertile Fiber Coconut and Perlite is another mix that has been reported to work.

Sylvagrow peat-free compost is another mix that carnivorous plant breeders report giving good results.

If you must choose peat, at least opt ​​for a reduced peat option, or better yet, Moorland Gold, which uses peat from rivers and dams rather than peat dug from its natural environment.

Do weevils live in peat-free soil?

weevilare a common garden pest. Adults feed on leaves that don't typically kill your plants.

However, these do the most damage in the larval stage when they feed on plant roots in spring and fall. With adequate root supply, plants can wither and die.

(Video) Peat Vs Peat Free Composts - Part 2 - The key to success?

Both peat-based and peat-free composts improve soil structure, which unfortunately creates a more ideal environment for vine beetle larvae in the soil or growing medium.

When purchasing compost (or plants), make sure you only choose options that are from a reputable source so you don't introduce these pests into your garden.


Is peat free compost good for plants? ›

Besides peat-free composts being better for the environment and made from sustainable organic materials, it's starting to become clear that most mixes of peat free compost are extremely high in nutrients, and are bulky, which make them great soil improvers over others that can be too fine.

Why do gardeners use peat free compost? ›

Peat-free composts are great for water retention but, for plants that require good drainage, adding a bit of grit and sharp sand to the mix will help support growth. Most peat-free composts are carefully blended to provide optimum growing conditions and the quality and reliability continue to improve.

What is an alternative to peat in horticulture? ›

Peat is never used as a soil improver or mulch in RHS Gardens. Soil can be improved by incorporating well-rotted animal manures or composted plant remains; both materials can also be used for mulching, along with wood chips, wood shavings, bark and other materials.

What plants do you use peat free compost? ›

Best plants for a peat-free garden

Try growing seeds of oxeye daisy, betony, field scabious, meadow clary and harebell in a mixture of 3 parts loam and 1 part sieved garden compost. Seaside plants also don't need any peat or compost in the soil.

Why should we stop using peat compost? ›

Plantlife, along with the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth, is calling on government and industry to replace peat use in gardening and horticulture. Damaging peatlands has a knock-on effect on wildlife, carbon stores, flood risk and water quality.

Why should you not use peat compost? ›

Many gardeners trust peat as a growing medium. But it's not always ideal. It is a poor mulch, quickly dries out, and is easily blown away.

Why is peat free compost so poor? ›

Low Nutrition Peat Free Composts

As explained above peat free composts rarely have fertilisers added. So the nutrition levels are low. In time, they release nutrients, but it can be very slow and often this isn't good for young plants.

Do tomatoes need peat free compost? ›

Good quality peat-based potting compost is just the ticket. Tomato cultivation tests have shown that sandy soil and peat soil do not provide a fully developed flavour, so it is best to keep away from cheap composts that are too rich in peat and not loamy enough.

Can you grow seeds in peat free compost? ›

Almost all seeds, both large and small, can be sown in peat-free compost, especially if you choose a finer mix specifically for sowing. If you're using a peat-free multipurpose, sieve a 1cm layer of finer compost and sow smaller seeds in that.

Why do gardeners and horticulturists use peat? ›

Peat is one of the most important growing medium that is safe and cost-effective used in the production of horticulture plants. It is valuable for horticulture plants, because the peat has a good capacity to hold air and water in high quantities of available formed plant nutrients.

What is an alternative to peat free compost? ›

Coir, which is made from the long fibres in the outer husks of coconuts, has been used for decades in growing media and is currently the most widely used peat-free alternative, says Jackson.

What is the best substitute for peat? ›

Peat alternatives
  • Wood fibre, wood chips. Both are made from untreated wood scraps. ...
  • Compost. Compost brings the advantage that it has a high pH and hardly sinks down. ...
  • Sand. ...
  • Bentonite. ...
  • Expanded clay. ...
  • Coconut-based materials: coco pulp, coco fibre, coco chips. ...
  • Rice husks. ...
  • Perlite.

What is the best compost for growing vegetables? ›

Loam Based Compost

Loam-based compost is a combination of soil, sand, and clay that has been decomposed and processed to create a deep, rich product that is ideal for growing vegetables. Loam-based compost can be purchased commercially or created at home using a simple composting bin.

Which compost is best for plants? ›

Soil-based composts are good choices for established plants because they are rich in nutrients and retain moisture well.

Can I grow strawberries in peat free compost? ›

Strawberries are easy to grow in containers. Peat-free multi-purpose compost is a good choice. Suitable containers include grow bags, hanging baskets, troughs and tubs.

Is peat compost being banned? ›

The sale of peat for use in the amateur gardening sector will be banned by 2024 to protect peatlands and the natural environment.

How much peat is used in horticulture? ›

Peat is used in horticulture, as a soil improver and ingredient of growing media. The volume used annually is about half that of fuel peat. Germany and Canada account for over half of horticultural peat extraction.

Is the US banning peat moss? ›

The Government has announced it will be banning peat compost sales for amateur gardeners from 2024.

Can you reuse peat free compost? ›

So a common question is: 'is it possible to re-use the soil / compost in pots'? The answer is most definitely YES. It will last for several seasons, at least, and perhaps even indefinitely.

Why is peat not sustainable? ›

Peat releases huge amounts of stored carbon dioxide when it is harvested, which adds to greenhouse gas levels. Peat mining is effectively unsustainable – it grows back at just 1 mm a year.

Why peaty soil is not a good soil for gardening? ›

It contains little to no nutrients and growing in peat-based mixes ties the grower to constantly applying fertilisers to keep plants healthy.

Can you grow carrots in peat free compost? ›

Choosing Compost

A benefit of growing carrots in pots is that the soil can be chosen to suit them, which can be especially handy if you garden on stony soil. A peat-free multi-purpose compost is ideal, to which some sand or vermiculite can be added to lighten the mix if required.

Is Miracle Gro All Purpose compost peat-free? ›

Miracle-Gro Peat Free Premium All-Purpose Compost is part of the high-performing Miracle Gro peat-free range. Containing a unique formulation that will ensure your plants are fed for 3 months, this peat free compost provides the optimum structure for roots to grow strong and preventing them from drying out.

Does peat free compost go Mouldy? ›

Don't fret over fungi

Peat-frees tend to be bursting with unseen microbial life. This can appear as white 'mould' on the compost and on the inside of the bag, but it's nothing to worry about. I often find small toadstools popping up in mixes that are high in bark and wood fibre, but they're doing no harm to my plants.

Can you grow cucumbers in peat free compost? ›

Whether you're growing indoor or outdoor cucumbers, sow the seeds in late winter or early spring, or buy young plants at the garden centre in late spring. Sow the seeds into pots of peat-free, multi-purpose compost. They need a temperature of at least 20ºC to germinate.

What is the best compost for tomatoes and peppers? ›

You can use good compost like B.O.S.S. Black Tea Compost, fine wood mulch, leaves, or grass clippings or weed-free hay to mulch peppers and tomatoes. Mulch helps to smother weeds which would otherwise reduce air circulation around your pepper and tomato plants and increase the likelyhood of fungal diseases.

What is the best mulch for tomatoes and peppers? ›

The best types of mulch to use on your tomato plants are organic and natural mulches. Straw, shredded leaves and grass clippings all fall into this category and are the best options for tomato plants.

What is the best compost for growing seeds in? ›

Coir and perlite mixes make the best seed compost for your garden seedlings. Perlite is recommended as a growing medium for seeds and cuttings as it provides aeration and speeds up propagation. Coir helps with water retention for healthy roots and is environmentally friendly as it is recycled from coconuts.

Do herbs need peat free compost? ›

An ideal potting mix for indoor herbs is 1-part topsoil or horticultural grit and 3-parts peat-free compost. Or you can buy a premade potting compost mix and use that on its own. The grit gives some structure for the plant roots and enhances the drainage preventing herbs from getting waterlogged.

Can you use peat free compost as a mulch? ›

Many local authorities and private companies collect and compost green waste. The resulting compost tends to have a high nutrient content and a high pH, making it an excellent soil improver or mulch.

Why should gardeners stop using peat moss? ›

Perhaps most important, peat extraction and use for horticulture are simply not sustainable. Peat grows at a very slow rate, only 1/32 of an inch per year. With some of the bogs being as deep as 40 feet, that means we are potting plants and starting seeds in a resource that takes centuries to grow!

What is better peat moss or compost? ›

For plants that like a more alkaline soil, compost is a much better option. As peat moss doesn't break down readily or compact, just one application can last for several years before needing to be replaced. Peat also doesn't contain harmful microorganisms or pesky weed seeds that may be present in poorly made compost.

What is peat horticulture? ›

Commercial peat extraction occurs mainly on raised bogs to provide peat for gardening. The mechanised peat removal has a major ecological impact, stripping away the living layer and subsequently exposing large quantities of peat to oxidation and loss of carbon.

How can I make my garden peat free? ›

Mulch bare soil between plants or under shrubs to lock in moisture, stop weeds and enrich the soil. Use homemade garden compost or composted green waste rather than expensive, bagged multipurpose or potting compost. Peat-free composts will be clearly labelled on their packaging.

Is coco coir better than sphagnum moss? ›

In terms of sustainability and longevity, coco peat clearly has an advantage over sphagnum moss. While there are two options, both with similar benefits for plant growth, peat moss as a product has a greater negative impact on the environment. As such, there is only one positive choice to be made.

Do tomatoes like peat free compost? ›

Good quality peat-based potting compost is just the ticket. Tomato cultivation tests have shown that sandy soil and peat soil do not provide a fully developed flavour, so it is best to keep away from cheap composts that are too rich in peat and not loamy enough.

Is Miracle Gro All Purpose compost peat free? ›

Miracle-Gro Peat Free Premium All-Purpose Compost is part of the high-performing Miracle Gro peat-free range. Containing a unique formulation that will ensure your plants are fed for 3 months, this peat free compost provides the optimum structure for roots to grow strong and preventing them from drying out.

Is peat free compost good for hanging baskets? ›

Multi-purpose peat free compost is the best choice if you're planting small patio pots, hanging baskets, herbs, leafy salads and flowering bedding plants. This Organic Peat Free All Purpose compost is 100% natural, so is perfect for your plants and gentle on nature.

When should you use peat free compost? ›

Buy peat-free potting compost for raising plants in pots. Mix it with garden soil for plants that will be in their pots for more than a year. Try to buy plants that have been grown in peat-free compost. You may need to ask the nursery or garden centre about this.

Can you grow tomatoes in peat free soil? ›

To grow tomatoes successfully, you need rich, fertile soil or peat-free potting compost, and a good sunny, sheltered spot. Water regularly and feed weekly with a high-potash fertiliser once the plants start to flower.

Can I plant tomatoes in old compost? ›

You can grow the following in old compost but it may be harder to get a good yield; tomatoes and aubergines. chillies and peppers.

Why is Miracle Grow garden soil not for containers? ›

If you use garden soil, such as Miracle Gro Garden soil or Vigoro Garden soil you may run into some problems. Garden soil is simply too heavy, making containers much harder to move around than if you used potting mix. That extra weight will lead to compaction from watering.

Does peat free compost retain moisture? ›

Peat-free products retain water more effectively than traditional peat products. This is great news in the summer but can be problematic in the winter months. Reduce watering in the winter, and incorporate grit or sand into the growing medium for drainage.

Which compost is best for flower beds? ›

Westland Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes is ideal for use all around the home and garden. This compost contains nutrients to feed your plants for up to 5 weeks. The added John Innes formula retains and releases nutrients and water for longer, providing your plants with all they need.


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