Use of peat in horticulture--is it ethical in our times of climate change?
January 25, 2022
Last year, I started looking into the realities of peat use in horticulture and was not excited about what I learned.
Peat is harvested from peat bogs (primarily in Canada these days) and is used in almost every bagged potting and seed starting soil you will find here in the US. It is almost impossible to find a mix without it. Once I got past all of the peat industry-sponsored websites about how "safe" it is to use peat and dug deeper, I was HORRIFIED.
Peat is harvested from peat bogs, which are massive carbon sinks. That means, they take carbon from our atmosphere and sequester (store) it in the peat--it's estimated that peat bogs store up to 33% of the world's atmospheric carbon, helping mitigate the effects of climate change. The harvest of this peat not only destroys about 6,000 YEARS worth of peat bogs and ecosystems (digging to a depth of 10-20 feet), it also releases all of that carbon that was stored within it--to the tune of billions of tons of CO2 (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00355-3).
The peat industry will claim that they "regenerate" those bogs and regrow them after their harvest--a requirement for its mining in Canada, where most of our peat currently comes from. However, ecologists counter that it takes centuries for these wetlands to recover and begin sequestering carbon at the rate they were previously.
Even when the bogs do regenerate, they may never be the same--the drainage of water to harvest from them decimates the microbiome and vital ecosystems that exist within them.
So, we set out to find an alternative. Most soil blocking mixtures include peat--in our next blog, we will post our peat-free soil blocking options!
As we have completely eliminated peat from our seed starting and growing (see more about that in this post), we had to seek out an alternative (previously we were using the Vermont Compost Company's Fort Vee mix to soil block). This led us to develop a couple of peat-free soil blocking recipes.
Hey, farmer/gardener/soil curator! Been looking for an inexpensive way to increase the level of beneficial microbes, slow release nitrogen and minerals? Have you heard of mesophyllic fertilizer? No? Neither had we, until we stumbled across this recipe...
Here's a shocking statistic: in the three weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, roughly 60 cargo planes per day take off from Columbia and Ecuador, full of pesticide-covered flowers. This herculean effort to meet the consumer demand of the holiday contributes to an incredible carbon emissions footprint, and the travel of your typical imported cut flower doesn't end at the airport: