Alternatives to Spagnum Peat Moss for Water Retention?

JakeDiamante(9)March 21, 2014

Hi Gardensters!

I am growing some bonsai and succulents (Ficus Palmeri, Pachypodiums, Adenium, Euphorbias, etc...) in containers. I have used a soilless mix with pine/fir bark and perlite/pumice. For water retention in the mix, I use Spagnum Peat. However, the problem with the peat is that it quickly becomes very dense. Also, it has a tendency to form channels and dry pockets when I water. If I lived in a more humid climate, I would prefer to use straight bark and pumice or perlite.

But it's very hot and dry here in the summertime, and on a summer afternoon, it would dry out a straight bark/grit mix in like a couple of hours. So I need some retention, but I just really dont like spagnum peat anymore. Is there such a thing as a large-particle-size water retention soil component??? Or any other type of water retention component suggestions? Tapla, you out there?! Haha

Thanks for any responses! Much appreciated.

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You could use bio char, a fancy name for small pieces of charcoal.

Here is a link that might be useful: biochar on GW

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 1:17PM
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Peat is effectively replaced with any other small particle. Some folks use the fines (I've used MG in the past instead of peat and preferred it. This year I might try tiny bits of pine bark.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 2:27PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

i have never used straight peat, although I have used peat-based potting mixes as an ingredient in my 5-1-1. As an alternative, I've substituted Turface, Pumice, and red lava rock (Scoria) as gritty and durable ingredients that are also porous.

We get several weeks over 100F during the Summer, and I've never had an appropriately-sized container dry out in a day. The most I've ever watered has been every other day. Granted, I grow a lot of succulents, but I also have a variety of bonsai material (conifers, maples), as well as citrus, peppers, and many houseplants in these varying mixes.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 2:34PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

How about calcined D.E. (Napa Oil Absorbent, for example) or turface? D.E. holds a lot of water, and, since it's similar in size, it could also replace the perlite. Perhaps a mix of just bark fines and D.E. in a ratio of something like 3:1 or 4:1?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 2:42PM
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