Peat Pots And Alternatives: Everything You Need To Know To Grow

Peat pots have been a handy standby for gardeners for many, many decades.

What is a peat pot? They are biodegradable pots made from peat moss that has been combined with shredded wood fibers and firmly compressed.

They provide a convenient and gentle way to start seeds and seedlings because you can simply plant the entire pot when you are ready to plant your seedling. This greatly reduces trauma to the roots.

12 Steps To Planting Seeds in Peat Pots

If you want to start your seeds in peat pots here are the steps to follow:

  1. Gather together the supplies you will need. They are:
  2. Fill your watering can with warm water and set it aside.
  3. Place your peat pots side-by-side in your tray. They should be very close together with sides touching.
  4. Fill the pots with potting mix or seed starting mix.
  5. Plant your seeds on the surface of the growing medium. For larger seeds, press them down into the soil a bit.
  6. Label as needed if you are planting more than one type of seed.
  7. Pour the warm water gently over all.
  8. Watering will cause the potting soil to settle in the pot. Add more soil to cover the seed and water again.
  9. At this point, your peat pots should be sitting in an inch or so of warm water. Allow them to sit in the water for about an hour to soak it up.
  10. If all the water is absorbed simply place the tray in a warm sunny window or in a warm area with good artificial light.
  11. If there is a great deal of water left, you may need to set the peat pots out onto newspaper for moment while you pour off the excess.
  12. Keep the soil and the pots uniformly moist by providing a soak whenever they begin to dry. Don’t allow the peat pots to dry out because they will wick moisture away from your plants’ delicate roots.

Transplanting Peat Pot Seedlings

When your seedlings mature, you will want to transplant them to their permanent setting. If they are  indoor plants, simply transfer them to their containers or pots without transition time.

If you are transplanting them to an outdoor container or garden setting, you will need to transition them gently by allowing them a few hours outdoors every day when the weather is mild.

Start them out with a few hours in the shade, and as they grow stronger and the weather becomes more predictable transition them into sunshine. After a week or two, you can transplant them into your outdoor containers or garden.

Transplanting seedlings in peat pots is very easy because you simply plant the entire pot. You may want to crush it slightly to break it down so that the roots will have an easier time growing through. Be sure that no part of the pot is exposed to air because if the peat dries out it will act as a wick and pull moisture away from the roots of your plant.

Are Peat Pots Environmentally Friendly?

Peat pots are biodegradable, so they are certainly better than plastic pots in this respect; however, are they really environmentally friendly? In fact, we are learning more and more that the gathering of peat moss for horticultural use actually has a very negative impact on the environment.

The reason for this is that peat moss is not a resource that is sustainable. Like rain forest, peat bogs take hundreds of years to grow and develop. Harvesting or mining peat is a destructive process that does away with hundreds of years of growth in a very short period of time.

Why Are Peat Bogs Important?

Peatland is a unique sort of wetland where decomposing moss has been accumulated to at least 16 inches deep. Peat can only accumulate at a rate of about a quarter of an inch annually, so it is easy to see that it takes a very long time for peatland to develop. Peat bogs cover approximately 3% of the surface of the earth, and these bogs have been in the process of developing for several thousand years.

Peat bogs can mostly be found in:

  • Finland
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Sweden

Scientists say that these peat bogs are quite fragile and that they are as important to the well-being of the earth as the rain forests. The bogs very often provide unique habitat to rare wildlife and extremely specialized native plants.

Many of these are endangered and can only be found in peat bogs. Companies that mine and sell peat destroy them in a process that decimates wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

Peat bogs are global coolers that absorb carbon dioxide. When they are dried out and harvested, the carbon dioxide is released and contributes significantly to global warming.

As if this were not enough of a loss, peat bogs also act to purify water. When the bogs are destroyed, the water table is lowered, local waterways are negatively impacted and water quality is damaged.

A Wealth Of Knowledge Is Lost

Because peat bogs are very acidic they hold a wealth of environmental and social information. Items that are buried in peat bog decay very slowly because of the acidic conditions. This means that scientists can gather a great deal of information about a wide variety of subjects including:

  • The evolution of vegetation
  • The history of the climate
  • Human activity

Carefully conducted archaeological digs of peat bogs have uncovered a great deal of valuable information, artifacts and even skeletons and the remains of human ancestors that have been buried for thousands of years and have not been preserved in any other environment.

How Is Peat Moss Obtained?

Unfortunately, when peat moss is mined from these delicate ecosystems a network of drainage ditches is dug along with a series of settling basins. This causes the water to be drained away, and the result is that the bog dries out and dies.

With this step complete, all surface vegetation is scraped away and the top layer of peat is exposed to the sun and wind. It is harrowed and plowed to speed up the process of drying.

In just a few short days, the peat which has developed over hundreds of years and provides a wealth of benefits for life on earth is gathered up with a giant vacuum or similar equipment and carried away to be packaged and sold to gardeners for a few dollars.

Can The Damage Be Undone?

While some companies have made efforts to restore the wetlands, the fact is that there is no way to restore them to their original condition. The process of mining peat moss causes too much damage to the land, the flora and fauna and the information that is unique to these settings.

Scientists say that comparing the reconditioned, managed bogs to the original natural bogs is similar to comparing a tree farm to a natural forest. There simply is no comparison. They are not the same sort of entity.

What Can We Do?

We can begin by exploring peat alternatives, and luckily there are many! Not only are there a lot of different materials that can be used instead of peat in gardening, many of them are cheap or free and actually work better to amend the soil, provide good drainage and even to create biodegradable seed pots.

Gardening Alternatives To Peat Moss

Instead of peat as a soil amendment, try:

All of these perform better than peat moss as a soil amendments because they contain more nourishment. They are also either cheaper or absolutely free.

Instead of peat as mulch, try:

  • Spent Mushroom Compost
  • Composted Garden Waste
  • Shredded Tree Pruning
  • Chipped Bark
  • Coco Shells
  • Leaf Mold
  • Straw

All of these perform better than peat moss as mulch because peat moss dries out easily and blows away.

Peat Pots Alternatives Surprising Substitutes

Eggshells make an excellent substitute for peat pots. They are biodegradable, rich in calcium and absolutely free. All you have to do is save them up instead of throwing them away or tossing them into your compost heap. Even if you don’t use many (or any) eggs, you can ask your friends and relations to share theirs.

12 Steps To Use Eggshells As Seedling Starter Pots

  • When you crack your eggs, take a little care to do it as neatly as possible. If you are able to retain the bottom two thirds of the shell by cracking it closer to the top, that’s ideal.
  • Rinse your empty shells and set them aside to dry. An empty egg carton with the top cut off makes an excellent drying rack.
  • Keep your eggshells in the egg carton when you plant your seeds. You can also use the egg carton top as a tray to provide a little bit of strength and support.
  • Fill the eggshells with potting soil leaving a little bit of room at the top.
  • Use a spray bottle to moisten the soil liberally.
  • Poke a little hole in the soil using the tip of a pen, pencil or similar object.
  • Drop in your seed or seeds.
  • Cover the seeds with potting soil.
  • Spray liberally again.
  • Place your egg carton/seed tray in a warm, sunny (or well lit) place.
  • Mist liberally every day to keep the soil moist.
  • When your seedlings are ready to transplant, transition them as needed and then crush the eggshells slightly and plant the entire root ball and shell.

There is no need to worry that the shell will wick moisture away from your plants’ roots. It will simply decompose and provide your plant with valuable calcium.

Video: Starting Seeds With Eggshells

Here is a delightful video that can help you learn how to use eggshells as seed pots. Note that in this video, the presenter adds an extra step by boring a small drainage hole in the bottom of the eggshell before adding potting soil.

He speculates that this step may not be necessary, and indeed if you are watering with a plant mister you will probably not need to add drainage.

Cheap or Free Biodegradable Peat Pot Alternatives Abound!

In addition to eggshells, there are lots of creative, innovative ways to make your own biodegradable seed starting pots. Here are a couple of possibilities.

Toilet Paper Rolls

Save up your toilet paper and paper towel rolls and use the tubes as starter pots. Toilet paper rolls are just about the right size as-is. Paper towel rolls can be cut to any size you wish.

To use these cardboard tubes, simply pack them closely in a tray, fill them with potting soil and plant away! You would plant your seeds in a manner very similar to those described for both peat pots and eggshells.

You can plant the entire paper towel or toilet paper roll along with the root ball. You may want to pull it away a bit to help the roots grow through and take hold, but the cardboard should biodegrade quite nicely on its own.

Use Newspaper

Make seed starter pots from scratch using black and white newspaper. There are a number of different ways to fold or roll or otherwise create very nifty little seed starter pots using black and white newspaper.

Online video instructions range from extremely simple to origami-like in steps and complexity. We have chosen to share a video in which the presenter shows the very simplest method; however, if you enjoy complex and ingenious folding, there are a number of videos to be found online that can will suit your fancy.

The main thing to remember when using newspaper to create biodegradable, free seed starter pots is that you must use only black and white newsprint. Don’t use shiny, colorful paper because the dyes used in this type of paper are likely to contain toxic heavy metals.

How to Make Biodegradable Plant Pots – Homemade Seed Starting Pots

Are Peat Pots Passé?

While peat pots are certainly traditional and have been very useful to gardeners for many decades, with the information we now have it seems quite clear that it is smarter, thriftier and more environmentally friendly to seek out alternatives.

In the world in which we live today, it behooves us all to make the most of the resources we have. When we remember to reduce, reuse and recycle as often as possible, we can make a real difference in the condition of our one and only habitable planet.

 

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