Compost and protect our peatlands so they can protect us

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Much has been said in recent years about how we gardeners and the horticultural industry in general will survive without peat. Commercial peat harvesting was effectively banned in 2019.

There are good reasons to stop peat production and then there are also loud voices and concerns that it should continue at some level for a ‘transition period’ so that it is phased out over the next 10 to 15 years.

Ecologically the world is in dire straits and we all need to wake up to the fact that now waiting 10-15 years is no longer an option.

If there was a time for a “period of transition”, it is long gone. The fact that the powers that be didn’t use that time and continued to take and take and take more of the bogs is a shame – yes, it’s more than a shame, it could be described as environmental and ecological vandalism.

Globally peatlands store a third of the world’s carbon and when harvested carbon dioxide is released into our environment and it is an environment that is already in dire straits due to excess carbon dioxide in the environment. ‘atmosphere.

One of the effects of climate change over the past half century has been more frequent and more devastating floods. Peatlands prevent flooding because they can absorb huge amounts of rainwater and slow down runoff in valleys and rivers.

I remember many years ago now when some green waste collection sites were closed across the country and many people rose up in arms because they felt they shouldn’t have been closed without giving alternative to people.

We have always had the raw materials to make our own rich and fertile garden soil. Photo: iStock

I understand that sentiment and I agree with him. I hear the same arguments now about banning peat harvesting, but this time I disagree.

Knowing the damage we cause and knowing the fragility of the global ecosystem, I cannot agree with this. In addition, in our own gardens we have all the raw materials to make our own beautiful garden soil. We don’t have to go to the local garden center to get a compressed peat bale wrapped in non-recyclable plastic wrap. In other words, the alternatives are already there and always have been.

Over a quarter of a century ago (that’s all I’m telling you!), when I was in college, I was working on a trial to test several alternatives to peat. Coco coir, cocoa shell and some blends of more sustainable organic materials have been tested with varying degrees of success.

I moved into a new garden last year and in the fall I pruned and removed many of the existing shrubs that had become way too overgrown and neglected. Much of the garden has been completely cleared and the soil below is poor, compact, hard to dig and hungry.

Compost without peat.
Compost without peat.

All of the “trash” I have created has been mulched and decomposing for several months and yesterday I spread much of it over beds and borders that are currently empty.

By applying a good 8-12 inches of this organic material, which has not yet been fully composted, as a deep mulch over the struggling soil, I add life. Bacteria and fungi are busy breaking down the green waste, earthworms and soil organisms will appear, the soil below and the newly applied mulch will become one over time.

I will be left with a much richer, crumbly, humus-rich, healthy and self-sufficient soil. Everything was added to this compost heap in the months that followed, including wood ashes, Christmas bouquets that were cut into small pieces when finished indoors, and leaves cleaned from paths and steps during the winter.

The stack was flipped about four times during the period.

It would probably be best to leave it for a few more months so it can break down a bit more before adding it to the soil, but there’s another reason I’m using it right now.

I don’t want weeds growing in these areas before I plant and if I don’t mulch the beds immediately, well, we all know what’s going to happen. I love my wildflowers and weeds, but not in these beds.

These days, there are so many different types of compost bins available to us, and we’re creating more waste than ever before – the ways to create our own rich, healthy soils are with each of us. We end up with better soils, dumping less waste, saving money, using less plastic and, very importantly, leaving peatlands intact and safe so they can help protect us all.

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