Non peat based composts

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Primrose
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Non peat based composts

Postby Primrose » Sun May 23, 2021 5:56 pm

I know we,ve discussed this in the past but I read the other day about the government's plan to ban the sale of peat free compost to garden centres for public users , and ultimately to large commercial horticulturalists

I understand the need to protect peat bogs but have to say my experience with non peat based compost posts in the past has been less than satisfactory.with generally very low germination ratesfor lots of different seeds. I,ve also found it difficult to maintain the right level of moisture consistent with good germination.

I don,t think I,ve used non peat based compost for a couple of years after some disillusioned experiences so wonder if later versions on the market have improved. Having discussed with other gardening friends it seems I'm not alone in poor germination experiences so where do we go from here if non peat based is all we can buy in future?

Sadly unlike Monty Don most of us don't generate enough home produced compost to avoid buying it commercially.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Compo » Sun May 23, 2021 9:08 pm

I have not used peat based for a long time. Living in Somerset the peat extraction does leave water habitats for lots of wildlife, but as we know it is not carbon neutral, and can never be replaced.

I do find it hard to find a peat compost that I like, as most stockists sell what they can get hold of, rather than having preferred brands. But I do manage to grow everything I need to in it with fairly decent results. I think that when peat becomes unavailable, market forces will force the quality and variety upwards.

I do make home made compost, but find it only suitable for soil conditioning and I am not competent enough to make it weed free.

I am sure it will be the topic of discussion as peat becomes less available
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Colin2016 » Tue May 25, 2021 8:55 am

I have no idea if using without peat has any effect on growing yields or failures,

Most of my compost (hot) is home made 5 off pallet size squares, 1 water butt size.

I have brought 1 builders size bag of mushroom compost and 15 off (75lt) clover compost which states includes peat from Ireland.

I do not think I will have any problem when peat is removed but suspect cost will go up.

My main concern is that compost does not contain weed killer.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby JohnB » Sun May 30, 2021 8:29 am

Peat-free composts will become the only available medium for growing; says Monty Don. On our allotment we have done a few VERY SIMPLE trials, mainly a few seeds from the same packet in 3 or 4 different growing media. We found the best seedlings all round were from the peat based compost, especially if it was mixed with sharp sand. Own made compost was not too bad, but germination was a bit hit and miss. Worst of all was a compost that was reclaimed green waste. The main problem was aminopyralid weedkiller in the stuff from people treating lawns presumably, as this is about the only source for gardeners, and putting the mowings in the waste bin. All bought-in compost now goes through a simple routine. fill a few pots, and sow a single broad bean in each pot. If aminopyralid (clopyralid) is there, within 4 weeks the bean will develop curled and weak leaves.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Primrose » Sun May 30, 2021 12:17 pm

My only comments about any kind of compost at the moment is that we acquired a new bag of unknown origin from our village store recently. I sowed some cosmos seeds in it and put the container on my window ledge. Not a single seed has germinated and the compost in the container seems to be crawling with little black flies. I have a plague of ants whixh also seem to have emanated from the same source. Heaven only knows what happening in the main bag stored in my potting shed area!,

If the whole bag is contaminated in this way how do I best treat it or dispose of it as I can see the problem growing worse the longer it's stored? Will tipping it out o to my compose heap eventually cause the infections to dissipate?
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby snooky » Sun May 30, 2021 6:41 pm

At the beginning of the season I couldn't buy my usual multi purpose compost from my favourite garden centre so off I toddled to another and bought their own brand,which I had used before, 3x 70 litre bags £15.I didn't realise that they had changed the formula.It is now 70%peat 30% other,the other being that compressed shredded wood similar to what Wickes changed to over ten years ago -and it smelled of "chemicals".Not happy but gave it a go both "straight" and after I had sieved the wood out of it to use just the peat content.Plants and seeds did not take off at all so I have had to make second sowings in proper compost and like the Wickes compost use the remainder as a soil conditioner
Moral of the story:-check formula of ANY compost these days to get what you want before you buy.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby JohnB » Wed Jun 30, 2021 7:50 am

Our pseudo-science on this topic began with seeds not germinating, we reverted to peat and Lo! and Behold! success. I decided to do a bit of investigating. The problem with anything like this is that certain magazines, the press in general and most definitely 'Celebrity' gardeners (without naming names) are being pushed into accepting a view that is not necessarily correct, by those who have 'An Agenda'. And that agenda is to remove peat from sale using incorrect information to push the cause.

All peat extraction in the UK is from managed peat bogs. These bogs are harvested and then the land is re-flooded creating regeneration. These refreshed bogs re-generate faster than the extraction rate. When they re-generate they absorb more CO2 than the original bog. The peat removed is buried in the soil and used to grow plants which in turn absorb CO2.

The statement that the world is running out of peat is simply not true. Peat is being created across the northern hemisphere faster than it can be harvested. The region from Norway to Siberia, and across the whole northern region of Canada has massive reserves of which around 1% has so far been harvested - in historical time.

Where has this information come from? The veteran garden Guru, Peter Seabrook - advocating that the 'Real' information regarding peat extraction and re-generation should be correctly published.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Geoff » Wed Jun 30, 2021 8:00 am

The other thing I have often thought there is no information about is how much carbon is captured if you bury all the rubbish that is being used to make these composts that don't work. My peat reduction method is lasagne sowing. I mix my own composts from soil, leafmould and sand but for seed sowing I don't completely fill the trays or modules then top them off with a professional peat based seed compost. This works particularly well for modules where you can thin down to one plant per module then leave them to grow on for a while in the compost below.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Johnboy » Wed Jun 30, 2021 9:05 pm

Hi JohnB,
At last some sense has appeared in this really fascinating topic. You have stated the facts as they should be. So far i have kept out from making any comment. What I will add now is that the trouble lies in the second stage of the germination process. A seed needs to be dampened and that will initiate the first stage without the help of human help but the second stage requires for the roots ro take up nutrition and this is where the problem lies because the non peat composts on the markets are really a disgrace and do not have what
the growing seed desperately needs which is nutrition which is just simply not there.
I was organic for forty years until the Soil Association were handed on a plate the job of controlling organics. They were allowed to make all the rules which quite frankly were composed mainly of myth and legend. The association was allowed to become quite a rich bunch of amateurs.They at least now have some more qualified staff which is really all I care to say on that subject.
You are so correct about the masses and masses of peat that still exist and every year it increases at a rate faster than it can be dug.
I think it was Finland that had scientists to calculate how much peat increased each year and the government allowed only 75% of that figure to be extracted. Horticulturalists require peat for the flowability quality which allows them to fill growing trays to be fillid easily instead of having chunks of wood and with local authority compounds also include fragments of glass and plastic.
I could go on at quite some length but I will just thank you for your so sensible input and leave it at that.
Regards,
JB.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Primrose » Thu Jul 01, 2021 8:20 am

Good to see you again Johnboy, and as always to have your contribution. I suspect the link between a seed's need for moisture and nutrition is still notfully understood by many and as germination failures continue with many non peat composts I imagine this topic will continue to run. Gardening and growing requires such an investment of time and effort that I'm sure if peat continues to provide the most successful results, consumers will will still want to try and use it whenever it can be obtained , despite government directives!
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Colin2016 » Fri Jul 02, 2021 9:05 am

How important is peat?

We hear a lot about seeds not growing and blame lack of peat which makes me wonder was there peat in seed beds in the older days?
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Primrose » Fri Jul 02, 2021 9:24 am

Well its interesting isn't it that quite apart from sowing our seeds to germinate in cells and trays, we also often sow them direct into good old garden soil to which no peat has been added and also get good germination rates.

So peat obviously Isn,t essential to successful germination but it would seem that some of the ingredients added to commercial compost bags available to the public at garden centres like shredded wood and garden waste actually seem to inhibit germination. That will have a very negative impact on keen growers.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Westi » Fri Jul 02, 2021 9:35 pm

I'm sure one or both of the John's will have the answer to your question Colin.

My view is also the heat that the heaps create to make the standard compost (with or without added wood & bits), devoid of living micro organisms essential to plant growth where our garden soil is rich with these & along with worms & stuff.

I have no clue on peat v's non peat & just order from the allotment shop so delivered to the plot; or spot an offer at the garden centre when mooching around & realise I am getting low. Confession time - I have never read the pack detail of what it is in them nutrition wise. Another thing comes to mind is the idea of what seeds need to germinate is in them so don't need extra nutrients for a bit, but seeds come in all sizes & shapes so they can't have standard requirements of one compost fits all.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Johnboy » Tue Jul 20, 2021 8:31 pm

Dear Colin,
I started growing vegatables way back in 1943 and was alloted my own allotment in the corner of my grandfathers orchard and in order to make my nursery bed for mainly brascas the ground was riddled one and a half spits down and I had to use pine litter which was a mile and a half away from my plot. I actually forget how many trips it took but at 3 miles a return trip I would hazard a guess that it took at least four trips and to protect the borders of the nursery plot from slugs and snails it was an even larger burden and the only gravel of the right size was obtainable from the bend in the river Wye behind the Bunch of Carrots at Hampton Bishop and that was damn near five miles a return trip and it took at least four return trips. As a thirteen year old lad it took me a considerable time but I managed eventually and manna from heaven was a very large parcel of seeds sent to me by my great uncle in Nova Scotia with just about everything I needed.
You as a gardener in these times have everything easy because in 1943 there were no such things as plastic ANYTHING and pots were of clay and bloody heavy. Today you go tp a Garden Centre and simply buy what I sweated blood to acquire. I used to sell plants in Hereford Market keeping a very watchful eye out for the Market Superintendent. I realised that one the local sewrage farm there were simply hundreds and hindreds of Tomato seedlings and I extracted the the most promising and planted them in newspaper cups and sold those and from the money I made I managed to purchase a stop me and buy one icecream cycle (there being no ice cream in 1943.) and then things got to a point where I could park my bike outside the main gate to the market and I would be sold out in minutes.
BTW my allotment was meant to be 66ft x 33ft and when I got to 100 ft my grandfather called time! It was essential that I not only had a nursery bed it went to beds and in order to collect my own seeds I had another smaller plot at the end of the allotment for just this purpose. I then became a RAF Apprentice and served my time in the supreme service but where ever I was I was always growing things to suplement my diet. When I finished with the RAF I went to Uni to study horticulture and here we are some 78 years on I am still at it!
I do hope this might answer your question.
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Re: Non peat based composts

Postby Primrose » Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:07 am

Whilst on the topic of compost, I was wondering somewhat indelicately perhaps for some, what it is which causes our human digestion system to produce our own "compost" so quickly, compared to a compost heap. - the combination chemicals in our gastric system and body heat I suppose, but we,d certainly speed up our compost heap degeneration if we could replicate such an efficient system.

I once went away for a few days, completely forgetting to empty my kitchen compost crock bin and on return found it had done a pretty good job of composting the contents!

Meanwhile I,ve got a nearly full bag of really awful commercial compost in which virtually none of my seedlings have germinated this year and wonder whether mixing it with grass cuttings etc in my compost cage would be the best way of disposing of it although I'm a little concerned about the original inclusion of weed killers etc in the material as I'm trying to keep our garden as organic as possible.
Last edited by Primrose on Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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