Oh, For Peat's Sake
September 6, 2006
A recent '60 Minutes' program reports that scientific documents on the effects of global warming are being censored by the US government.
"The Canadian government has shut down the main federal website on the topic and removed all mention of global warming from its speeches," reports the 'Toronto Star'.
We are all too well aware that North American leaders appear to be backing away from the Kyoto Protocol as fast as they can.
Old news? Well, here's something that you might not know. The mining of peat moss contributes to global warming. Annually, countless millions of bales of Canadian peat moss are used world wide for amending soil, mulching and as a seed starting medium. It is the #1 ingredient in potting soil.
Should savvy gardeners rethink their devotion to peat moss?
"If environmentalists have any say in the matter," says Thijs Millenaar, president of PlantBest, Inc. the Toronto-based North American leader in coir-based replacements for peat moss, the answer is a resounding "YES."
The 'skinny' on peat
Peat - which grows at a rate of no more than 1/25" (1 mm) per year - is partially decomposed plant remains which accumulate in waterlogged soils over thousands of years.
Peat bogs, which filter 10% of global freshwater resources, are unique ecosystems that support biodiversity and species of flora and fauna, many of which are at risk.
But here's the kicker
Peat bogs also act as carbon sinks - natural storage sites for carbon dioxide. Extraction of peat releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming. While Canada is among the most responsible countries in the world regarding peat bog restoration, the facts remain that:
- a) A typical peat extractor removes up to 9" (22 cm) a year, and
- b) It takes 220 years to regrow one year's extraction.
Peat, therefore, is hardly what anyone could call a renewable resource.
The world's most dedicated gardening culture 'gets it'
Perhaps, because of the sheer size of the United States and Canada - and both countries' seemingly never ending wealth of natural resources and wide open expanses - we continually lag behind Europe in matters of restricting the use of pesticides, chemicals and, in this specific case, the use of peat moss.
For example, peat extraction in the United Kingdom will cease by 2012.
The UK's venerable Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has mandated that 90% of its own growing media requirements be peat free by 2010. Further, they "consider the purchase of peat to be unacceptable for the primary use of soil incorporation and ground mulching."
The RHS obviously considers the cessation of peat use so important, that in the three pages devoted to environmental concerns in their 2006 Chelsea Flower Show catalogue, one entire page was devoted to the peat issue.
Are there alternatives to peat?
In a word. YES. There are some terrific products, comparably priced to peat moss, which perform as well, or even better than peat. One such example is PeatEliminator, marketed by Toronto-based PlantBest, Inc. the North American leader in coir and coirbased alternatives to peat moss. (See www.peateliminator.com for more details.)
Coir (pronounced "koi'er"), is the hyper-renewable fibrous outer husk of a coconut. Fast gaining international renown for its eco-friendly horticultural applications, American rose growers are raving about it and, with great success, Dutch farmers have been using it for years.
PeatEliminator™, used to improve drainage and to amend and aerate soil, is made entirely from coir; is pH neutral; is clean and free of weed seeds, pests and pathogens; it holds 30% more water than peat moss; and, unlike peat, it wets and rewets almost instantly. This product is readily available at major retailers, independent garden centers and through retailers which you can find at www.plantbest.com
Underscoring the fact that you're doing a really good thing by using this product, it is nice to know that a percentage of all PeatEliminator™ sales are donated to the World Wildlife Fund, Canada. ]
Are there other coir-based products?
Yes. Look for SoilSponge™ - an all natural soil supplement made from a blend of ingredients including highly refined coir - which can add up to seven days between waterings in both the garden and in container plantings. (See www.soilsponge.ca for more details.)
And, just in time for the 2006/7 seed starting season, look for FiberGrow™ a new line of 100% coir seed starting pellets, pots and strips marketed by Planters' Pride. www.planterspride.ca)
The time has come for North American gardeners to do the right thing and make the switch.
For peat's sake.
For more information, and/or to arrange an interview with Thijs Millenaar, please contact: