Using Peat Free Compost Effectively

How to use peat free compost effectively:
Gardening is not only about who can grow the largest flowers but working harmoniously with the environment, whether that is in our own gardens or beyond.
If peat-free products are used properly the results can match and even out-perform those of peat-based products. Well respected growers such as Kew Gardens, RHS, and the National Trust all phased out peat years ago due to its negative environmental impact, this change hasn’t impeded these organizations from cultivating beautiful, thriving plants.
We’ve all heard the odd grumble about how peat-free compost compares next to its environmentally damaging cousin. What people don’t realize is that the biological differences between these composts affect their performance in different ways. This means that gardening with peat-free composts requires a different approach. If peat-free compost is used in the same way as peat-containing compost, it won’t perform as well, so what we need to do as gardeners is modifying our gardening techniques in order to make the most of peat-free products.

  • Water

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. In the summer, when growing bedding plants, tomatoes, and aubergines, water more frequently but with a smaller volume of water. 

  • Nutrients

Peat-free products tend to lose nutrients faster than peat products. To overcome this, experts recommend applying the same type and quantity of nutrients, but in smaller doses over a longer period. We advise enriching the growing medium with natural fertilizers such as chicken manure, seaweed fertilizers, and Fish, Blood, and Bone. If a particular compost recommends using a specific fertilizer, very often this isn’t just marketing, as different peat-free compost blends have different nutrient balances. We recommend following these instructions or choosing a product with a similar NPK ratio on the packaging.
Peat-free compost is highly effective as a soil improver, its bulky organic material slowly enriches the organic content of the soil, unlike peat which is low in nutrients. This makes it ideal for long-lasting planters and containers, or for use as a soil conditioner.

  • Growing seeds 

Peat-free compost is ideal for general repotting and potting up, but when being used for growing seeds it's best to mix with something to break up the soil structure and aerate the soil, such as vermiculite. 

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