Letters From Readers

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By William Moss


Thanks for the useful info on peat moss and the accompanying links. I've always meant to research that and somehow never found the time to do it. Now I can feel less guilty about recommending the potting soil mix I use to my clients. That's one article I will be saving in my "plant info" folder.

Hilary Cox, garden designer


Thank you for reporting on peat moss. I appreciate your efforts to educate gardeners on where this widely used product comes from. While I enjoyed your article, and agree, to a certain extent, that peat moss is a great product that is being harvested sustainably, there is not an unending supply of peat. I was surprised that you didn't inform gardeners of other options. Coco coir is a new medium being used by some gardeners in mixes, although there is still more to know about this substance before it is widely used. Also, there are non-peat mixes made from composted organic matter that could be used. One example sold here in Canada is Sea Soil, made from composted fish and forest fines.

Just wanted to let you know my thoughts. Thanks for your newsletter. I look forward to reading every new issue.

Rachel Strivelli

Dear Mr. Moss,

I really do enjoy your newsletter and was glad to read your expose on peat and sustainability. I actually do not use it often except for prepared potting mixes but felt better after reading your article and forwarded it to the HGTV message boards since there have been several discussions in the past about peat's uses and replenishment. Someone on the message boards replied saying pretty much the opposite. Who could be right? The folks in Canada who'd love to sell more of the peat, or most of the other articles I've read in the past?

Thanks for your attention,
June Veloce

William Moss responds:

June, thanks for your letter. I really enjoy a good environmental debate. We all want to preserve natural spaces and maintain their biodiversity. From there, we break down into two camps: those that believe we can responsibly use natural resources, and those that don't want to use any natural resources.

Very few commercial industries are completely beneficial or even neutral in their effects on the environment. All the peat moss alternatives have their own environmental drawbacks. Given a few decades of mass production and utilization, there would be articles railing against them, too.

After researching this issue, the reason I support the use of peat moss in America is the CSPMA's dedication to preserving some peatlands in their natural state and restoring "mined" peatlands to a functional level. This maintains habitat, preserves biodiversity, and advances the science of restoration, all on the industry's dime.

Habitat restoration is still in the embryonic stages. Peatland restoration projects not only salvage those wetlands, they also provide data for ecologists worldwide working on restoration methods for prairies, woodlands, savannas, estuaries, rivers, etc.

In addition, if those peatlands were not managed by the peat industry, there is no guarantee they would be allowed to remain in a natural state. Hydropower, forestry, and agriculture have decimated countless wetlands. The fact that there is commercial value in the peat has helped protect peatlands from other industries.

Finally, peat is renewable, although not within our lifetime. If all goes well, young scientists will analyze fully restored Canadian peatlands around the year 3000.

Thank you for your concern and diligence. If everyone was as thoughtful as you, we could truly make a difference in healing and shielding the planet.

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