I need an alternative to peat moss

trace00969July 19, 2007

I have had it with peat moss.....I hate it, it is just a pain in the a$$.....some of my plants that I let go very dry, I am finding are just having a terrible time soaking up water again. I probably shouldnt let some of my plants go this dry, but I would rather underwater than overwater.

So my question is, how can I get around this peat moss crap? What are my alternatives?

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amany(MI / 6)

A lot of people swear by coconut fiber. It's the type sold as bedding in pet stores. Or you could try hydroculture and use clay pellets (hydroton) as a growing medium.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 8:03PM
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GrowHappy(z7 MD)

vermiculite and perlite

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 9:31PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

Wash the peat off the roots, then go with a lightened comercial mix. Vermiculite, rockwool, coco peat, or aquatic soil all work well. I use clay cat litter, perlite, and vermiculite with regular potting soil less mix to lighten it. My plants seem to like it.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 9:54PM
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Does kitty litter really work? I was thinking about this myself.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 8:51AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Before I answer, I'd like to know exactly why you think you need a substitute. What causes you to believe that you just can't leave it (peat) out?

Blonde... - Kitty litter may or may not be an acceptable substitute. Unlike the other calcined clay soil media components, kitty litter is often fired at low temperatures to promote clumping when it absorbs moisture. You'd need to soak it in water for a day & squeeze it to see if it returns to the clay from which it was made. The same holds true for oil-dry products that you can buy in the automotive sections of many stores. If you can find Turface or Play Ball, they make superb soil amendments for soils or serve well as the PRIMARY component of a soil. I grow MANY plants, particularly succulents, in 100% Turface.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 9:45AM
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Mentha(9 CA)

I should have specified the generic clay, non clumping litter. I get mine from the dollar store it has larger chunks. just be sure to wash the dust off first. I got the idea from the aquatics board when somebody suggested it as a replacement for aquatic soil.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 3:33PM
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Thanks everyone so much.....is is safe to assume that if I dont use peat, my plant will require more frequent watering? Or again does that depend on what I chose to go with? rockwool.....hmmmm....lol. I actually use 1 inch cubes of this to do some of my rooting, even an AV, and it shot up babies.....I wasnt sure if rockwool could be used alone to grow plants......where would I go for info that would would explain how to transition my plants to that? And the kitty litter, what it it do, what would you compare it to? And this cocnut fibre, is this the shavings you buy for hamsters?

Love all the ideas, would still love to hear more!!


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 9:53PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

I'm not a conventional gardener, but I tend to be as cheap as posible and recycle everything I can, since I don't have much money for extras, I'd much rather pay for plants than accesories to them. I even make my own ferts. These do work for me, but I'm sure I'll get a bunch of flack for not giving 'by the book' advice. I've done by the book and it is expensive for someone who is starting out or on a tight budget, and oft times confusing.

Rockwool is used primarily for hydroculture, and orchids, however I've been thinking of getting some for mixing with my epiphyte mix and for using with rooting my jungle cacti and hoyas. It can be used in place of orchid bark along with hydroton, gravel, or pumice for stability. I've been doing research on rockwool and it looks to be pretty good as an overall substitute for peat. Just google it and see where it takes you. Kitty litter is used as a substitute for sand, pumice, or gravel in your soil. I have some cattail reeds growing in just cat litter in my guppy pond, it's growing great with just fish poop as fertilizer. I have also added it in my c & s mix which is also used for my hoyas. I am a heavy waterer, since it gets really dry and we have no humidity, and the cat litter helps with the compaction and drainage. I even added to my drip trays as an experiment, I don't know how that will work out, it may turn out to be a mess. Vermiculite also retains some water and can be used as a replacement for peat.

Coconut fibre is also used in hydroponics and is not the same as the shavings used for hamsters. I tried those once as an experiment when my rabbit died and I could not figure out why my plants were declining. Last week I repotted a very large pothos and found out some of the roots had rotted and the shavings were big clumps of wet soggy mess, the rest of the soil was dry enough, but there were pockets of shavings which stayed wet and rotted the roots. My pothos is growing new leaves for the first time in about two years now that I repotted it. Coco fibre can be found also in orchid supplies.

I just use a commercial peat free mix (not hyponex) and add 1 part each perlite and vermiculite, and 1/2 part of cat litter or aquatic soil for normal plants. C & S and hoyas I add to the above 2 parts cat litter, pumice, rough aquarium gravel, the kind used for topdressing, aquatic soil, or leca, I find turface and the other soil amendments to be too small for my epiphyllums. I only use that for rooting cuttings. The cat litter is cheapest and easiest to find, but may not be the more superior choice, it's just what I can afford, since I already have cats, I don't get in trouble for buying it either. I also add any used coffee grounds or tea, these add a bit of organic matter for those acid loving plants. I also add shredded newspaper and packing peanuts, this helps make large pots weigh less, and if it is added to the soil and not to the bottom, it prevents that crust you get otherwise. I leave about 2 inches of soil without the peanuts so they don't wash to the top, perlite does that enough. I have been using the cat litter as a buffer between the soil and top dressing also.
I do invert small pots on some of my larger plants soil because I have a lot of cats, many of them outside cats. I don't want to tempt them into thinking my plants are their box. The most of my plants are hanging or on shelves. Surprisingly, I had more problems with plain aquarium gravel, than using the cat litter and gravel.

I don't waist soil, any soil I remove from my plants go into a big drum outside to be cooked by the sun. A couple weeks of being in the drum kills any bugs, seeds or nasties and then it goes back into the normal cycle of being mixed for potting up. It's pretty much a composter, but just for used soil.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 4:15AM
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milwdave(Zone5 Milwaukee)

Believe it or not...when I was young, I had a neighbor who grew his African Violets in an interesting mix....crushed eggshells, shredded newspaper, and coffee grounds...LOL He grew the nicest violets I have ever seen.:) But he always was one to "swim agains't the stream"


    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 8:00AM
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Wow, what great ideas!!! These are fantastic and I am writing these down as I read them.

Any more anyone??


    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 8:45AM
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Well I found some clay pellets.....although I am not sure how to growing them, since I don't want to switch to strictly hydroponics, can I mix the clay pellets with vermiculite or perlite or both? I also found coir bricks....after I soak it and expand it, do I have to use it all at once?

And yeah for me!! I got a 1000w MH last night, I am determined to get lush foliage on my hoyas.....lol. Anyone else used a light this powerful before to grow indoor plants? Mine is strung up in my dining room, and man it is almost as bright as the sun....lol.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 3:08PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

Hi Tracy,

The clay pellets can be mixed with your regular potting soil. There are commercial soils that don't have peat in them, they should be fine with the clay pellets. Clay pellets alone with just perlite and vermiculite can be done, however it's usually only done with bonsai. Coir is better along with the above. I know of a lot of epi growers which use coir, it's usedin place of peat also. I'd be prone to say your hoyas may need a bit more substance than just clay, perlite and vermiculite.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 4:58PM
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I got some coir too....lol


    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 7:42PM
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Epiphytes, such as your Hoya, like an aerated mix with organic matter. Why not try a mix like this: 1 part calcined clay (your pellets here), 1 part perlite, 1 part coir, and 2 parts orchid bark. The bark is organic, but unlike peat, slow to break down. Add some slow release fertilizer with micro nutrients, and you should be good to go!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 3:07PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Though I live in a warm climate I grow many plants in pots because of my poor soil.In fact you'd have to enrich it some to be called "poor" lol
Most of my pots are outdoors so exposed to the elements and lately we have only two kinds of weather way to wet or way too dry.
I use this mix for general "tropicals" mix and add ingredients depending on how much water the plant requires.
I part pine bark fines
i part canadian peat
i part crushed lava rock. I don't like perlite as it tends to migrate to the surface. Vermiculit because to hold too much water.
To this basic you can add clay liter, for more moisture , pumice for less, and chopped coconot husk for more moisture sensitive plants.
If in doubt I pot in straight long fibered sphagnum moss
the best I can find . Don't get the cheap stuff your buying twigs not sphag.
I also layer different media in the pot depending on the size and the rainy season. I always put a layer of either
lava stone or strofoam in the bottom depending on how much weight is needed.
During the dry season i add some top soil to the base. gary

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 7:02AM
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greenelbows1(z9--so LA)

Just got the current issue of The Avant Gardener today--it's a newsletter that reports on the latest trends, and new products, and good places to get different plants--all sorts of handy information. Thought of this thread when he had a paragraph about 'a New Peatmoss Substitute'. Its known as RePeat and its made from 'anaerobically composted cow manure' (I thought anaerobically composted anything was bad?) that is supposed to have 'all the good qualities of peat plus neutral pH and low salt content'. By Organix, www.organix.us. Sorry, I thought I remembered how to make it clickable, but I don't! I don't know anything more than that about it, but it sounds interesting. I would prefer not to use peat as it's a finite resource, and while I like coir liners for my baskets I've had fairly disappointing results using it in potting mixes. Have to check it out.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 12:23AM
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milwdave(Zone5 Milwaukee)

Try 'oilsorb' as a replacement for the kitty litter. It's a bit more expensive but not as bad as the Turface and a good hardfired product. Haven't had it turn to mush yet. The aquatic plant soil from Schultz (Shultz?) is pretty close to the oilsorb.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 6:52AM
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You can mix in some long fibered Sphanum moss.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 4:17PM
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I've been using a mix of rockwool in my mixes this year to cut down on peat....The type I get is Grodan Granulate, from a hort. distributor in St Louis.

It works well, but can be very wet....it holds water longer than peat.

Apparently, it must be WELL rinsed before using, as it has a high pH, which rinses away to neutral with water....I burned a few plant's roots before I read that info.

I'm now using it in a mix that my annuals, tropicals & veggies all seem to like....30% peat, 30% rockwool, 30% parboiled rice hulls, 10% vermiculite.

Parboiled rice hulls are a new thing from the hort. distributor....replacing perlite...seem to work well & cheaper.

According to the rockwool co.'s website, you could grow in straight rockwool....but I bet you'd want to something for additional drainage, like perlite, sand, etc, for some plants at least.

The stuff I'm talking about is kinda loose, once it's fluffed up (a leaf rake is the tool!), looking like gray fiberglass insulation or something....Other varieties are compressed into tighter cubes or bales.

Maybe that'll help


    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 2:19AM
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