Peat in North America...

Started by MarkMazer, May 31, 2024, 03:11:30 PM

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David Pilling

Quote from: MarkMazer on May 31, 2024, 03:11:30 PM"In defense of PEAT" 

Very interesting. For the likes of me (hobbyist in UK), peat is history and I've got no problem with the replacement.

It does sound like the energy situation - the pending UK government [1] is saying it will de-carbonise the grid by 2030 (and reduce energy prices as a result). Meanwhile North America is awash with low cost natural gas and any reductions in usage of fossil fuels in the UK will simply give countries outside Europe more fuel to burn.

[1] we're in week 2 of a 6 week general election campaign whose result is a formality.


I assume that Eire still operates peat (turf)-fired power stations????

The limitation to peat alternatives in horticulture is that they all compost/rot, so are unsuitable for use as any significant proportion of a potting compost that is destined to be in a pot for more than a few months (depending on how damp the compost is in very large part).

One of the longer-lived alternatives is coir - I have been using it for something like 30 years. If it is kept very damp or wet (and warm) that can compost-down to a black sludge within a year but can last several years if the pot is growing someting that is kept "dry".

Has anyone any idea what growers of the commoner carnivorous plants - the ones that naturally grow in bogs - are using? The problem is that the pots need to stay permanently at least very damp. I suppose they could go to entirely aggregate potting media.


" what growers of the commoner carnivorous plants... are using"
I have always used long fiber sphagnum moss for the growing mix and milled sphagnum moss for seed starting mix. Same species but is the top layer of the moss vs peat which is partially decomposed and compressed.

Mark Mazer
Hertford, NC

David Pilling

Quote from: CG100 on June 16, 2024, 12:38:02 AMI assume that Eire still operates peat (turf)-fired power stations?

Era of peat-fired electricity ends as Edenderry power plant switches fully to burning biomass

Sat 30 Dec 2023 at 18:30
The last watt of peat-fired electricity will be generated this weekend as the Edenderry power plant finally stops stripping bogs for fuel.


Thanks for the article link for discussion! Of course, the thread title and article are about "peat in North America" and that is significant to its argument.

I've seen similar "in defense of peat" articles in the past and realize that as a North American peat user, my options (and thus my decisions) are different from those for gardeners and horticulturists in much of Europe.

The source of peat varies greatly between regions. I use both peat and coir—and actually mix my media: 1 part peat to 2 parts coir (+ aggregates as needed). I plan to continue this practice. However, I've always been frustrated by the marketing of coco coir as 'sustainable' with the implication that North American (i.e., Canadian) peat bogs are lumped into the same "peat bucket" as sources from peat bogs that are NOT regenerating.

A fair comparison of the environmental 'costs' of Canadian peat vs. coir must consider several factors:

1. **Environmental Impact**:
   - **Peat**: Harvesting peat in Canada is 'claimed' by that industry to be regulated in a way that allows for the restoration of peat bogs, minimizing long-term environmental damage. I compare it to the U.S. or Canadian lumber industry—which makes the same claim, and you may disagree.  I've lived around timber areas in the western U.S. and am well-aquainted with the differences in a 'managed forest' and an 'old growth' forest that has never been logged, and can imagine a 'managed peat bog' would be far different from a pristine, untouched bog- but that's not our discussion here.
   - **Coir**: The establishment of coconut farms at some point involved the conversion of natural habitats. Additionally, coconut farming requires significant water and fertilizer inputs. I factor these into my "environmental cost" equation—you may not.

2. **Transportation**:
   - **Peat**: Canadian peat has a relatively short transportation route to my location in the U.S., reducing its carbon footprint. Yes, it has emissions and fossil fuel costs.
   - **Coir**: Coir, imported from tropical regions, involves long transportation routes that increase fossil fuel use and associated pollution to my location. If you must ship either coir or peat long distances to your location, this would factor in.

3. **Sustainability Claims**:
   - **Peat**: In North America, especially in Canada, peat harvesting companies claim it is sustainable for many decades at present consumption. This includes efforts to replenish and restore peat bogs after harvesting. It's a claim you may or may not believe, but compare it to coir below.
   - **Coir**: Because it is a byproduct of the coconut industry, it's sustainable only as long as coconut farms produce coconut for consumption, continuing their inputs of water, fertilizer and fossil fuel, to both grow and harvest the coconut and transport the coir to me.

The environmental cost equation changes significantly when considering the proximity to renewable peat sources. For those close to Canada's peat bogs, peat may be an option for me and my North American gardening friends for decades yet- with no guilt.  Conversely, in regions far from sustainable peat sources, alternatives like coir already are preferable to continued peat use.

Although I disagree with the term 'sustainable' when discussing coir, I'll agree clarifying that it is actually a byproduct that would otherwise be composted or discarded—suggests using "coco coir" in any meaningful way is a worthy goal.  I just wish we all compared apples-to-apples.
Member: : Pacific Bulb Society