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What is peat-free soil? This is why you should use the substitute for conventional potting soil in the kitchen garden and ornamental garden

For a long time peat was considered an important part of numerous horticultural products. In recent years, its use in container gardens and outdoors has been strongly criticized. Mainly because numerous peatlands are drained for peat extraction. The alternative – peat-free soil – has been successfully established for a few years. But is it possible to replace peat completely and what are the options for groove and ornamental gardens?

Why peat-free soil? The advantages and disadvantages of peat soils at a glance

Use peat-free soil for flowers in tubs Tips

Peat in itself is actually a valuable addition to garden and potting soil . It is a good water reservoir, can provide oxygen to the plants and has a pH value that ranges from 3 to 3.5. Depending on the needs of the plants, it can be fertilized or limed. Thanks to its properties, it is used mainly in vegetable cultivation. On the one hand, because at the moment there are not so many substitutes, on the other hand, because they are cheaper. In addition, there are significant differences between different peat-free soils.

use peat substitute from wood or compost

In one’s own garden, however, it is possible to monitor the ornamental and useful plants and to react quickly to possible changes in the composition of the soil. Garden centers also offer a wide range of peat-reduced or peat-free products. Why this is worthwhile? We list the advantages and the disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • Environmentally friendly. Peat is derived from peatlands, which can limit CO₂ emissions more effectively than forests. If fewer peatlands were drained to produce peat, CO₂ emissions would also be lower.
  • Substrates with peat have a high acidity. To compensate for this, the garden soil must be limed. Peat-free alternatives often have a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

use peat-free soil for houseplants

Disadvantages:

  • The alternatives are less expensive.
  • Not all peat-free substrates and fertilizers are high quality.
  • Plants need to be monitored.
  • Soil should be tested at least once a year, preferably at the beginning of the gardening season.
  • Peat-free substrates are more likely to be attacked by pests. Therefore, they are often treated with insecticides during production.

The variants at a glance

Use peat free soil in your own garden


For now: organic substrates may or may not be peat-free. Pay attention to the ingredients when buying. Even low peat products contain peat, even if the amount is significantly reduced.

The possible variants for peat-free soil at a glance:

  • In the garden centers and composting plants are sold ready-made green waste compost. Especially mixtures of soils and compost, the so-called mixed soil, are suitable for filling the vegetable patch. They score high in volume weight, so they are stable and contain many useful nutrients. A mixed soil with green waste compost does not need fertilizing in the first months.
  • Potting soil with coconut fiber is permeable and loose. The coconut fibers absorb water well and can store and yield it. However, they are low in nutrients. A substrate with coconut fibers must therefore be fertilized regularly.

peat-free soil in the flower bed from green compost

  • Humus from spruce bark: Well matured bark humus scores with a high quality. It can store oxygen, absorb water well, is stable and contains many microorganisms.
  • Soil with wood fibers from native woods: loosens the soil and scores high on stability.
  • Soil enriched with clay is loose, contains a lot of oxygen, can store water and release it evenly.

In practice, most substrates are mixed from several peat substitutes.

Is the peat-free soil really environmentally friendly?

use peat free soil for kitchen garden tips


Peat-free soil is indeed environmentally friendly, but only if it is made from local raw materials. This is because transportation over long distances can also harm the environment.

Peat-free soil: for which plants is it suitable?

You can use the peat-free soil for both ornamental and useful plants. Since it is relatively expensive, you can first have the garden soil tested. Together with the results, the laboratories also send recommendations for fertilizer. Based on these recommendations and the information regarding the composition of the soil, you can get detailed advice at the garden center and find the best option for your own garden.

The peat-free soil is also more often attacked by fungus gnats and other pests.  Therefore, it is often treated with pesticides. So when buying, pay attention to the content and composition, especially if you want to use the soil for the kitchen garden.

use peat-free soil for potted plants

In the flower bed, the peat-free soil is mixed with the garden soil.

For the potted plants, you can use peat-free soil without any problems.

For large lawns, a peat substitute is out of the question. Firstly, because the associated costs would be too high, and secondly, because grass is very sensitive to changes in the soil.

Peat-free soil is a good option for smaller plots, for container gardens or private kitchen gardens. There are several variants, so everyone can find the right one.