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Using Peat in NZ Nurseries - yes or no?

Peat moss, also known as Sphagnum peat, is a popular ingredient in many potting mixes for nursery plants. It is harvested from peat fields and is highly valued for its water-retaining abilities, light weight, and ability to improve soil structure. But like any soil amendment, peat also has its pros and cons that are important to consider when using it.


  1. Water retention: Peat moss is highly absorbent, holding up to 20 times its own weight in water. This makes it an ideal ingredient for potting mixes in nurseries, as it helps keep plants moist even when they are not watered.

  2. Soil improvement: Peat moss helps improve soil structure by increasing its aeration, reducing compaction, and improving water drainage. These benefits are particularly important in nurseries, where plants may be grown in containers for long periods of time.

  3. Lightweight: Peat moss is much lighter than soil, which makes it an ideal ingredient in potting mixes for plants that are grown in pots. It also makes it easier for growers to move plants around as needed.


  1. Renewability: Peat fields are a slow-renewable resource, and the extraction of peat moss from them can have a significant impact on the environment. As peat fields are drained and harvested, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and can contribute to the destruction of ecosystems.

  2. Cost: Peat moss is often more expensive than other soil amendments, which can be a drawback for nurseries that are working on a tight budget.

  3. Availability: Peat moss is harvested from peat fields located in specific regions, which can make it difficult to obtain in some areas.

Alternatives to peat moss, such as coconut coir or composted organic matter, can provide similar benefits without the negative impacts of peat extraction. For our nursery, the cost of alternatives at this point is nearly 250% more than our current mix - maybe this cost will come down in the future as more media companies start to produce it?

What are your thoughts?

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