Coco-Coir .vs. Peat Moss...

arjo_reichJuly 2, 2007

I never knew there was such a heated-debate going on over peat moss being a renewable resource but it's made me wonder...

What's the general consensus towards coco-coir? I just started using it as a soil replacement (indoors) and soil amendment (outdoors) and it's been doing fantastic for me, although it's considerably too expensive to use in large quantities.

A 24-brick case of it costs me about $70 USD which roughly equates to...god, I don't know, a 1/2 a cubic yard? 1 brick, when rehydrated to field capacity will fill a 3-5 gallon bucket - how ever much volume that is, lol.

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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

Hi arjo reich...I use peat moss because it's cheap...can be bought locally...and is renewable. Price is the only thing keeping me from using coco-coir in my gardening efforts. Hard to beat a compost/peat moss combo for your soil. Franklin

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 9:01PM
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Coir is a renewable resource, it is obtained from the harvested coconuts, but since you have another, better renewable resource readily available around you replaced every year and available free, why spend money on even this.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 7:04AM
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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

Hi kimmsr...go back and read my post again...I mentioned using a compost/peat moss combo on my gardens. I never have enough compost so I add peat moss to give me additional material for the soil. Franklin

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 7:48AM
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You know why it is a hard combination to beat Oldmainer.... testing has shown that mixing compost and peat together have a synergistic(sp?) effect on each other.

Mix that stuff!! Mix, mix..... mix!! LOL!!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 7:30AM
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Franklin, I fail to grasp why you think what I wrote is a criticism of what you do.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 6:53AM
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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

Hi kimmsr...I don't believe I said anything about that dude. I believe I mentioned that I use peat moss...and that I mix it with compost. Franklin

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 7:08AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Okay, let me see if I can figure out what is happening.

Oldmainer makes an observation.
Kimmsr makes an observation.
Neither is directed at the other, but, rather for the original poster.
Oldmainer tells kimmsr to re-read his post.
Rdak gives a rah-rah.
Kimmsr says his observation is not directed to Oldmainer.
Olmainer says he didn't say anything about that.

I think I know what's happening. Sorry, just needed to think out loud.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 8:02PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Peat bogs are valuable wildlife habitat, valuable carbon sinks, valuable water filters, and their renewability seems to be mostly theoretical. I'd like to see statistics on how much peat land has actually been renewed after it's been stripped.

Most coir comes from India. It's a waste product, and renewable, but comes from thousands of miles away, and requires lots of fresh water for cleaning - in a country not renowned for its soil or fresh water resources - so I wouldn't call it sustainable. I read about this after seeing a block of coir, enough to make 3 cubic feet, for 7.95, at the local hardware store for the first time, and buying it to pot up greenhouse plants in, mixed with garden soil and compost. I'm not sure I'd buy more, now that I've read about it. Like Kimm says, compost is the best - free, renewable and sustainable.

That said, though, since I have it I'd be interested to know of people's experience with using coir as a peat substitute - how is it for holding water for instance. Also coir pots for seedlings.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 6:45AM
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When it comes to the performance of coir vs. peat moss, here are the primary differences:

Coir is less acidic than peat moss which is mined out of peat bogs that naturally have an acidic environment. Peat moss may acidify your soil enough that some of the more sensitive plants may need the soil to be neutralized before they can thrive.

The dispute about which one holds more water is pretty much irrelevant, since both hold so much water that as a soil amendment, both would dramatically boost soil water and nutrient retention. My experience is that coir holds an enormous amount of water; one little brick labeled as 1/3 cubic foot (expanded) typically expands way beyond 1/3 c.f. if you give it as much water as it will soak up.

Coir contains a great deal of lignin, which makes it very slow to decompose (which is a good thing). I have heard that it decomposes more slowly than peat moss, which does not have the lignin content of coir, but I have not had enough years of experience with it to be sure. The reason this is supposed to be beneficial is that coir is supposed to be able to keep benefitting the soil for years after being added, whereas peat moss would break down before coir and require another addition.

The Canadian Peat Moss association cites studies that show that coir's performance is very near to that of peat moss, but peat moss is better over-all as a soil amendment, especially for for sandy soil. Then again, these people have a conflict of interest, since they mine the peat moss for a living. The whole point of adding either peat moss or coir is to add cellulose fiber to loosen soil and to help it hold water and nutrients. Compost also adds some of this, along with nutrients; coir and peat moss by themselves do not have any plant nutrient value.

Once ecological concerns are factored in, my personal verdict is for coir: peat moss is mined out of peat bogs, and takes 25 years or more to naturally renew, if they are so preserved, but there is no guarantee that the industrial mining operations that mine peat actually take such care. Peat bogs are a natural carbon sink that hold more carbon than all of the world's forests. Removing the peat doesn't release it into the air unless the peat is burnt, but it does release carbon dioxide into the air as it decomposes. Peat bogs are also habitats, which mining disturbs. On the other hand, coir is a waste product and has no recovery time, as the places that produce it constantly produce more as a byproduct of the coconut harvest.

I'm in California, and I find that coir bricks are not as expensive as people say it is, depending on how much you need. Large bales of peat moss are cheaper, but the 1 cubic foot (compressed) bales of peat moss (which expand to about 2 ft.) are more expensive than the equivalent expanded volume of coir.

If price is your concern, for large volumes, peat moss is cheaper, but you may have to buy oyster shell meal to neutralize the acidity, so factor that in. For small volumes, reconstituted coir bricks are definitely cheaper than peat moss. However, if you factor in that coir decomposes more slowly than peat, that too may tip the scales.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 11:45PM
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The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association's study supporting peat moss as superior:

Note: there's a subtle thing you must not miss when you read the above link: it's not just peat moss they used, but peat moss amended with lime. Remember: peat moss is acidic and itself needs to be amended to neutralize its acidity.

Here's a study that shows Coir dust as a viable alternative to peat moss:
Coir Dust, A Viable Alternative to Peat Moss

G. C. Cresswell (1992) looked at coir dust in comparison to sedge and sphagnum peat products and concluded that it has superior structural stability, water absorption ability and drainage, and cation exchange capacity compared to either sphagnum peat or sedge peat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Coir Dust: a viable alternative to Peat Moss

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 11:54PM
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You have a product to sell, and you want to sell lots of it so you can make a lot of money. To get people to but this product you need research to tell people they cannot live without what you are selling so you pay some people to come up with results that say your product is good, even though it really does nothing that other, much less expensive similar products also do, sometimes better.
That is what manufacturers, and/or seller organizations do, provide not quite false information to convince people to buy that product. Most people really do not need peat moss or coir because they have access to lots of another, better product that is renewable, and is most often today a source of pollution becasue of improper use and/or storage.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 7:26AM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

What about corn stalks or leaves from shucked corn? If we are talking about lignin (slow to decompose) doesn't corn stalks and leaves have a hign lignin content? Would shredded corn by-product make a good, cheap, plentiful, local and long-lasting soil ammendment?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 8:39PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Why are people so taken with the idea of purchasing stuff to put into their gardens? I make heaps and heaps of compost and it is the best darn stuff in the world. If you can't make enough compost, then you aren't scavenging hard enough.

Between bags of other people's leaves in the fall, the horse farm down the road, and the old produce I get weekly, I can actually make as much compost as I need. Sure we do a little schlepping now and then, but it is all local stuff that is being discarded, and the results are fabulous - free compost in large quantities. I have put it in all my gardens and raised beds (about a dozen of them) and still have 50 gallons left. Heh heh heh. I don't buy peat moss or coco-coir or fertilizer or any darn thing except seeds and an occasional plant. Think how nature gardens, and with lovely results.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 2:28AM
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i work for Powerstrading, a marine salvage company, and we have about 10,600 blocks of this coco peat. we are selling it for $0.50 a block for the whole lot and $100 per pallet which is about 80-90 blocks. also if u have any good info you would like to throw at me id love to learn more about the stuff. we have a chemical breakdown sheet you can see if you are interested its located in Charleston SC. please email or call me for more info. this stuff will be gone by the end of the month
Austin Keen

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 1:40PM
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If the peat industry was in any way hurting by way of sales, the argument that the people who sell it needs telling people why they should use it and so put more money in their so ridiculous a point that it doesn't deserve the light of day.
The person who makes that suggestion is always telling posters how everybody is a crook, is out to steal from them and no one in the gardening industry should be trusted.

Topsoil is worthless, compost bought at a dealer is not worth the trip, garden implements are made to break and so need replacement.....and so on, and so on.
He really looks at the world through dark colored glasses.
And this from a self-admitted person who doesn't have a lawn worth a pinch of
He resides in a state whose economy is based on how much more oil can be eaten up and yet he professes we shouldn't fertilize our farms because "excess" is ruining our water courses.

Canada's peat industry has today, more peat ready to amend the world's soil than can be possibly used even if everyone of its people were to have need of it.
China today is feeding its people more than it ever could and so needs less importing and wants to buy---and thus control...more of other nations natural resources; especially oil and natural gas. It is one of the leading countries now using Canada's peatmoss to further its farming.

And Canada is creating more and more every day and renewing a large proportion of the areas mined in short years.
His idea of non-renewable resources is ....leave them in the ground.....we're wasting them.
When would we make use of such resources.....NEVER it seems.
The gold, silver, lead, nickel, should just stay where it is. The auto industry that uses much of Canada's iron ore, the nickel that makes the steel better, the aluminum that makes up 99% of the bodies and engines....
all ..should be left where it is.

Yet he drives a car, heats his apartment with natural gas,
eats food from farms that use such resources, and otherwise picks and chooses to argue about what renewable resources are.

Everything is much better not used....there's always something better....and something that doesn't cause injury to our Planet.
I wonder if the State economy is ready to accept his theories on such global saving.
Would Michigan then turn to their northern neighbors and ask for handouts.

After all, we're the source of the peatmoss; where a large chunk of its oil use is coming from, where his home is being heated with our gas and where most the world's fresh water lies.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 4:04PM
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jbann23(6 RI)

Whoo, you go Canada!!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 10:43PM
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Yea, unfortunately the debate about peat almost always gets nasty. I support the Canadian peat industry. I believe it is being managed in a sustainable fashion. I like peat because it adds some acidity, as well as water retention, to my sandy, alkaline soil.

I do not support bashing members of the forum. Debate is an art and a skill which people need to cultivate. It is not cool to appoint oneself judge, jury and executioner, or to encourage such behavior. What a pity that a point which could have been well-taken has been undermined because of the method of delivery.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 11:33AM
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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

Hi have hit the old nail on the head with your comments. I also support the Canadian peat industry and think it's alive and well. All I have to say at the moment is if some folks don't know about peat moss...and don't want to use it thats great...leaves more for you and I...:-) Franklin

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 1:36PM
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I am promoting COCO PEAT in Virginia. Please shoot me an email, if you are interested in buying COCO peat. I am sure my pricing will be lesser than price you pay at retail store for peat moss.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 12:25AM
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I am promoting COCO PEAT in Virginia. Please shoot me an email, if you are interested in buying COCO peat. I am sure my pricing will be lesser than price you pay at retail store for peat moss."

Looks like somebody forgot to read the TOS. It's against the rules to promote your business here.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 12:39PM
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"Why are people so taken with the idea of purchasing stuff to put into their gardens?"


I don't know, maybe because we've all been trained to fork over money to get something/anything done.

When I first started gardening, I bought 150 bags of pine bark mulch because it was 'on sale', & the big box store delivered it one Friday night;

I nearly killed myself spreading it around, but I was extremely pleased with myself;

I thought I had solved all the soil problems I could ever possibly face.

Within about 4 months, that stuff was gone, *eaten* by a micro-herd that had been starved by at least 80 years of abusive "land management" (cotton had been grown on it until the soil was too exhausted to support cotton, then cattle had been pastured until a developer bought it).

only 4 months!

That's when I realized that I could spend all kinds of money on the yard/soil/garden, or I could spend zero.

Spending zero is a lot more fun.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 3:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Peat - Renewable or Not? - Does it Matter?

Chicken Little would be aghast at the inference peat is renewable! In my estimation, it doesn't matter much if it's renewable or not, and I refuse to be made to feel guilty about using any form of peat.
Here is a reply I often leave when the non-renewable thing comes up:
"Sorry, but I'm not buying the non-renewable lament. In Canada alone, there are more than 270 million acres of harvestable peat bogs. If we make the conservative guess that the harvestable portions of these bogs are 10 feet deep, that means there are probably more than 900 billion cu. ft. available for harvest, just in Canada, and that's just the stuff that's economically advantageous to harvest! These numbers don't even take into consideration what's available in Europe, Asia, or places like New Zealand where they also mine peat. Canada currently has mining/harvesting operations underway on approximately 40 thousand acres or about .014% (that reads 14 one thousandths of 1 percent).

Check the math - it's accurate and conservative. It's more likely that the next ice age will be upon us and glaciers will have covered what's available before we even use a noticeable percentage.
Renewable/non-renewable = moot."

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 4:13PM
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"Peat moss may acidify your soil enough that some of the more sensitive plants may need the soil to be neutralized before they can thrive."

Can you name some of those "more sensitive" plants? This Spring, I ran out of soiless mix to start seed, so I mixed together just (no lime) peatmoss and perlite. Every kind of seed that I planted in this mix flouished, e.g, tomato, pepper, zinnia, marigold. I used soluble fertilizer, but that was acid too.

As an experiment, try amending soil with milled sphagnum moss (like peatmoss but harvested alive). It decomposes faster than peatmoss, but you will get superior plant growth before it decomposes. When I was a teenager circa 1963, I had good success growing banana plants in a mixture of sphagnum moss and peat muck. I guess you could say that I left out the middleman (peatmoss).

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 7:23PM
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Hmm, I don't quite buy the "oh there's so much peat that there's plenty for all of us," argument.

I mean, passenger pigeons used to outnumber all other birds in North America combined. I'm sure nobody at the time thought we'd ever run out of those either. And sailors in the North Atlantic used to joke that you could probably walk from Europe to North America on the backs of cod.

So I'm still concerned about whether we're taking it out much faster than it can be replaced. If we are, then that's not a good thing. Too many historical examples of natural resources we never thought we'd run out of that we're now out of.

The question is whether we really are taking it out too fast. Maybe we're not. I'm not sure.

Now, on the other hand, coconut fiber is a byproduct that we'll never use up as long as we're farming coconuts.

That's cool, but I've never seen any coir at my local stores, just peat moss. And yeah, I've bought quite a bit of peat moss in my time, because it's awesome, especially in soil mixes for starting seeds. So nice and spongy!

Also, I have very alkaline soil. Not everyone has to add lime to their peat moss! The bedrock here is limestone. I cringe every time people talk about the horrors of putting acidic things in your soil, assuming that's a bad thing for anybody to do. I'm always digging limestone rocks out of my beds. If only I had rock-crushing equipment I could sell it to people who think they need to add lime to everything and make a FORTUNE! (Ok, I'm joking about that last bit.)

I also don't buy the claim that compost = peat moss. Not in my experience! "Oh, the fools who buy peat moss when you can get compost for free!" Apples and oranges there. I've worked plenty with both substances, and it's obvious that they do very different things in your garden and containers.

I try to use as little peat moss as possible, but I still break down and buy some every now and then, because I just don't know of anything else that has the same desirable properties peat moss does, mainly super water retention and acidity. But I've cut way back on it because of the sustainability issues.

Basically, I really wish I could find coir around here. And too bad it's not as acidic as peat, because I think my soil has a pH of like 8 or 9.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 10:13AM
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Is live sphagnum moss an easily renewable resource?

Try milled sphagnum moss.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 11:43AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)


Too expensive as a garden soil amendment unless you harvest it yourself.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 9:59AM
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"Too expensive as a garden soil amendment unless you harvest it yourself."

Not too expensive for one planting hole as an experiment.

Not too expensive for Bill Gates.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 12:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you'd like to split hairs, I said "Garden Soil Amendment", not "Planting Hole Amendment". Besides, if you knew your stuff, you'd know that it's been shown best, and current practice is, to NOT amend planting holes with anything - to backfill only with native soil.

You're probably right about Bill Gates - strong work - keen grasp of the obvious. ;o)


    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 12:37PM
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struwwelpeter on Sat, Jul 25, 09 at 12:14

"Too expensive as a garden soil amendment unless you harvest it yourself."

Not too expensive for one planting hole as an experiment.

Not too expensive for Bill Gates.

struwwelpeter is a pain in our Equus africanus asinus

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 1:23PM
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All the bs aside, I use sphagnum peat moss It comes from my neighbors to the north not some big greedy monster! Choir is shipped by ocean from where? I don't care! I do use all the local talent/material I can. Is not a garden for being close to the earth? Should one not be close to the soil you live on? Should you not grow plants that thrive in your soil? Why change the soil for the plant, when you can change the plantings for the soil? I am Sorry but the control issues can get rampant on here and gardening gets forgotten. If I stepped on a few toes good! Wish I could step harder!!


    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 4:26PM
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led_zep_rules is RIGHT ON!

IMHO... nothing beats compost for improving most outdoor garden soils. Nothing is more sustainable or renewable than making/using one's own compost. The definition of home gardening sustainability is reuse of resources on the site, and bringing in as little from off the site as possible. So... making one's own compost is a very good thing for the soil and for the planet.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 4:12PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Well, thank you! I popped back into Gardenweb after quite an absence and came to this group first. I agree that compost does not equal peat moss, but in what situation is compost not the best solution? I use it in my raised vegie gardens, in flower pots, to improve hard dry soil, make soil fluffier. Yes, compost will break down over time, and peat moss doesn't, but then you just put more compost on a year or two later. And the compost is free and comes from stuff other people are throwing away. Pretty obvious to me that compost is superior to peat moss or coir. Fluffy, holds water, and it's nutritious. I do have some coir based seed starting soil, mostly because I got it free from Gardens Alive!


    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 10:01PM
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edh87(7a - Durham, NC)

Sorry to dig up an old thread, but I just found out about the "non-renewable" aspect of sphagnum peat moss. Al, do you have a link supporting that only ~.1% of available sphagnum is being harvested? I believe you, but always prefer the primary literature. ;) If only 1/1000 of the resource really is harvested per year, and it takes ~1000 years to renew, well then it actually is staying balanced and is renewable....

Thank you!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 8:20PM
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edh87(7a - Durham, NC)

Oops, found this right after I posted:
" Annually, peat moss accumulates at more than 70 times the rate it is harvested."

Would be nice to find evidence for that in from a source without a conflict of interest though.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 8:22PM
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Quite a debate going on coir vs peat. Locally I can get peat for about $10 a bale - Canadian spahgnum OMRI 3.8 cu ft. Lasts me quite a while I buy this size as I do mix it in with a lot of plants and or worm bins. I mix this with pott. soil. verm. and vermicompost.

Now I find I can get a brick of coir 11 lbs equates to 3 cu ft shipped to my local walmart free $11.99 Now this stuff is PH neutral so Im told and renewable. So here I am jumping on the bandwagon going to try a brick of it. This is labeled as "beats peat" 100% coir. Ive heard others say they have to wait a week a so to get this as Im guessing its shipped from CA.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:50AM
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I don't know the difference between Sphagnum peat and "peat moss". Aren't they the same? Surely it isn't the stuff that clings to live oaks down south. I have bought some coco coir square packages. I had a gift card I received for X-mas. I finally used it to purchase several square packages of coco coir. I ordered from AMAZON. Then I had bought it at a local Big-lots a year or 2 ago for $2.50 a bale. Each of the 2 of these sources of soil ammendments , Coconut coir and peat moss are considered bad by some, but as mentioned already, don't break down fast like fall leaves and coffee grounds, compost, too. I think if coir was in the big box stores, people would buy it. But it has been mentioned that it is shipped from far away, and therefore not so environmentally friendly. So, basically, those in the northern US, are close to the peat bogs, but some say it isn't renewable, so don't buy. But don't buy coir because it costs to ship it from it,s source. I use fall leaves and some wood chips, but these need replaced about twice a year as mulch. As soil ammendments, I would guess that they disappear quickly, but with crops in the soil, can't be added more than once, in fall or winter, before planting. I think that if stores loaded up their delivery trucks with lots of products that bring lots of money, they could carry some coconut-coir and make a profit. I used some on a raised bed by my kitchen door, (coconut coir) last spring and it looks like nothing has rotted away. If Coconut coir was cheap again, like when I found it for $2.50 at big lots, I would use it under my trees and all my veg/ flower beds liberally. But of course that will never happen. Well, the peat moss isn't good for mulch anyway, it needs to be added to the soil, to help with moisture retention, and to retain nutrients, and soil cations, if I recall correctly. If I haven't , sorry to confuse. I still will use the fall leaves I have as mulch, and add some wood mulch, and some coconut coir on some beds.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 12:00AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

poaky, Not all peat and peat mosses are the same. Most of the peat moss offered for sale is sphagnum, but there is also some reed and sedge peats . Peat moss is constantly being renewed and is on millions of acres. I get most of my sphagnum from a local bog.

Coir does have some limits of availability if more people used it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:01PM
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All renewable/sustainable arguments aside, I used a mix soil for blueberry plants that is 2 parts peat, 2 parts coir, and 1 part perlite, to get an blueberry agreeable PH level from the peat. I also sneaked in some compost and organic acidifier. I'll probably want to start using coir instead of peat for seed trays more but someone really needs to start shaking the coconut tree... coconut water, coconut oil, and coconut coir are way too expensive. Though as said above 5 kilos of coir for 12 bucks is pretty great. Could be forced to make the trip to the wallmarket to save a few dollars.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:00PM
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Today I went to my local Lowes store. I saw a different looking form of "Sphagnum peat". But it was in a small bag, and for Orchids. It was too expensive to buy in large amounts. I will search Ebay for a big bag, but am sure I will not find it. If anyone has a source where Me and others can order some of these ammendments, please share.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 1:39AM
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