The Pantry contains information about some of the items that are useful for a peat-free gardener, and gardening terms you may come across on your peat-free travels.
Composted or shredded bark is a common ingredient in peat-free compost.
Charcoal made as a soil improver, or carbon sink, rather than to be used for fuel. (More details to follow in a future post.)
Blood, fish and bone
A traditional animal-based fertilizer, relatively high in potash. Calcified seaweed can be used a vegan substitute.
A process using EM to treat food waste prior to disposal. Often thought of as a composting method.
Sterilised bone meal is used as a slow release phosphate fertilizer.
Composted bracken is an ideal component for ericaceous (acid) peat-free composts.
Fibres produced as a by-product of the coconut industry. Sterile and absorbent, coir can be pressed into biodegradable plant pots and pellets, or bricks that can be rehydrated into compost.
Waste coffee grounds are often available free from coffee shops who would otherwise have to pay for their disposal. They make a great addition to the compost heap, or a slightly acidic mulch that will make your garden smell (temporarily) of coffee and deter cats from using it as a toilet. Apparently you can also use them to grow mushrooms, although I have yet to try it myself. (More details to follow in a future post.)
A leafy perennial plant often grown by organic gardeners as it is a dynamic accumulator and brings nutrients up from the subsoil. Its leaves are used for mulching, as a compost activator and for making liquid feeds, and can also be used to add nutrients to a leaf mould compost mix.
When you buy peat-free compost you can recoup the extra few pennies you’ve spent by seeing the bag it comes in as a useful product in its own right. You can open bags out and use the plastic sheets (black side uppermost) as a warming mulch for tender crops. They’re very useful for making leaf mould, and for composting perennial weeds that can’t go on the compost heap. And they’re strong enough to be filled with your homemade potting mix and be used as grow bags.
Effective microorganisms – a collection of bacteria and fungi reported to have numerous beneficial effects. They are the basis of the Bokashi food waste treatment system, and can be applied to soil to improve soil health and yields.
A substance added to soil or compost with the aim of providing nutrients to plants. Fertilizers can be liquids or solids and slow- or fast-acting. Liquid fertilizers are also sometimes applied to leaves as a foliar feed.
Compost made at home with a mixture of garden/ yard and household wastes. Variable in nature, but high in organic matter and plant nutrients. Can contain viable seeds, diseases and pests unless properly hot composted. See Eco Garden: Composting for more information.
Green waste compost
Compost made commercially from garden/ yard waste collected from households. Often available to local residents free or at low cost. Can be contaminated with non-compostable waste, but should be free from weeds, pests and diseases.
A plant crop grown specifically to benefit the soil.
Large mineral particles (small stones) added to compost mixes to increase drainage.
Hoof and horn
An animal-based slow-release nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
Leaf mould (or mold)
A low-fertility soil improver made by composting leaves. (More details to follow in a future post.)
A calcium-rich substance (which can be accompanied by high levels of magnesium, depending on the type you choose) that is used to raise soil pH (decrease acidity). Lime should not be applied at the same time as fertilizers. Avoid using slaked lime or quick lime in the garden, as they are caustic – stick to lime prepared for garden/ agricultural use.
An ideal soil composed of specific amounts of sand, silt and clay particles. Also the resulting soil when turf is stacked to compost down.
The waste products of animals, usually very rich in nitrogen. Farmyard manure should be well-composted before use. In recent years batches of manure have been contaminated by the aminopyralid herbicide, which causes damage to certain crop plants that can persist for several years.
Spent mushroom compost is compost that has been used for commercial mushroom production and is then sold as a waste product. It almost certainly contains peat, but as you are recycling it you may not consider this to be an issue.
Pasteurization is a heat-treatment applied to soil or compost to kill weed seeds and most pests, but which does not kill all of the microorganisms present (many of which are beneficial to the soil). (More details to follow in a future post.)
White, light inert mineral particles that are added to compost mixes to improve drainage. Can be horribly dusty, and its mining and production cause environmental damage – so limited use is preferable.
Peat filtered from water running off peat bogs – essentially a waste product. Collected and processed into an environmentally-friendly peat compost that is ideal for carnivorous plants. A sustainable, but limited, resource.
Pulverized rock used as a solid fertilizer to add minerals back into depleted soil. A by-product of the mining industry, but a non-renewable resource which is heavy to transport.
A mineral high in phosphate that can be used as vegan fertilizer, but it is a mined and non-renewable resource.
A waste product of the rice industry, light hulls are light and water-absorbent but help to increase drainage. I haven’t seen them offered in the UK, but they are mentioned in US compost mix recipes.
Small, inert mineral particles added to compost mixes to improve drainage.
Seaweed contains a large number of micronutrients as is therefore made into fertilizers and liquid feeds. Seaweed meal is a slow-release fertilizer that can also be added to compost mixes to improve water-retention.
A by-product of the brewing industry that is often available cheaply or free if you can collect. Used as a high-nitrogen mulch or compost ingredient.
A heat treatment applied to soil or compost that kills weed seeds, pests and diseases and provides a sterile medium for seed sowing. (More details to follow in a future post.)
Straw (the stalks of grain plants) is often used as a mulch. Straw bales can also be used to grow greenhouse crops and tomatoes (see Chapter 3).
The top layer of soil that contains plant roots, organic matter and soil organisms.
Pee is often used as a nitrogen-rich liquid feed, or as a compost activator when a compost heap contains a lot of carbon-rich materials. (More details to follow in a future post.)
See Worm compost.
Light mineral particles that are added to compost mixes to improve water-retention and drainage. Its mining and production cause environmental damage – so limited use is preferable.
Often included in ‘bark’ products.
Waste wool from the wool industry is now being turned into a new kind of peat-free compost. You can also buy wool pellets that are sold as a slug deterrent, although I have found that they don’t work in my garden.
Compost produced in a wormery or worm compost bin, which uses composting worms (red wigglers) to speed up the decomposition of food waste. Wormeries require regular care and attention, but produce a large volume of liquid feed and a small volume of very rich compost. See Eco Garden: Worm Composting for more information.
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.