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Is it OK to leave out peat moss in a soil recipe? I have this gardenbox and I'm looking for recipes for a mix to buy in bulk and ALL of them have peat moss, but from what I've read it's no good. Here's an example:

  • 1/2 bushel of peat moss
  • 1/2 bushel of vermiculite
  • 1/2 cup of ground limestone
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What about peat moss is no good? If it's a sustainability issue, we have a question about sustainable peat alternatives. Depending on where your peat is sourced, sustainability may not be as big a problem as it is sometimes made out to be. –  bstpierre Aug 19 '11 at 2:45
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can't just leave it out, you have to substitute it with something. Coir, for example. (I use well-composted horse manure + bedding.) If you leave it out, the soil won't hold enough water.

Mike Perry's answer to this question says:

A good "Potting Mix" is made up of 3 basic parts: * Water retaining material. * Drainage material. * Plant food (fertilizer) material.

In your example recipe, the peat moss is for water retention, the vermiculite is for drainage, and you don't have any plant food. (You might leave out fertilizer from a seed-starting mix if you are going to quickly prick out the germinated seedlings into another potting container that has some food.)

You could substitute coir for the peat moss in that recipe, or if you wanted to add plant food to the mix and you had a compost with good water retention you could try using it for double duty (food & water).

See my answer to the same question for the peat-less recipe that I use (which does have soil, so may not suit your application).

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