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Healthy Soils:

Urban gardens often suffer from poor soil conditions either from poor drainage, extensive root systems from overlapping woody plants such as trees and shrubs, or lack of natural organic debris such as leaves.

Some soil types are mistakenly considered poor, such as sandy or clay, because not all plants will thrive in these soil types. In these cases, it is sometimes better to choose plants that are well adapted to these soil types than struggle to change the soil altogether.

Re-establishing healthy soil can be achieved by either completely replacing depleted soil or by gradually adding back organic matter needed for healthy soil. Developing an natural cycle of decay and renewal is the best method to long term soil health.

Since a rich and vibrant garden begins with healthy soil, composting and fertilizers are important materials in the garden. However, more and more gardeners are rejecting artifical fertilizers and some forms of natural compost too, such as peat.

What Is Peat? The way peat is formed creates unique and fragile ecosystems with many highly adapted plant and animal species found only on peat bogs. Peat land plants are highly specialized to survive in these poor conditions. Certain mosses and carnivorous plants, such as the Sundew, survive only on peat bogs.

Why are Peat Bogs in Danger? The value of peat as a medium for horticulture is indisputable. It improves the structure of soil, and due to the way it is formed it has high water retention properties, providing an ideal growing environment for our garden plants. Exploitation by afforestation, conversion to agriculture and commercial peat extraction has destroyed much of our peat lands.

Peat free commercial compost: These are produced on a commercial scale and can be bought from most garden centres. They are excellent alternatives to peat, consisting mainly of commercially produced compost, such as wood-waste, spent mushroom compost, composted garden or green kitchen waste, leaf mold or well-rotted farmyard manure. These alternatives can perform better, since peat has little or no nutrient value and are less expensive.

Home composting: This is probably the best alternative to peat. Garden compost is a renewable resource made from waste products. It helps to reduce the green waste, going to landfill, and unlike peat it is full of nutrients and returns organic matter to the soil in a useful form.