Peat - what happens, and how to use?
I think everyone who is engaged and engaged in gardening or at least indoor plants knows that peat is a very necessary and useful thing. After all, peat is part of various soil mixtures, practically, as an obligatory component. But not every gardener knows why he is needed in these mixtures and how he works. Many people think that peat is a fertilizer, and believing that peat does not happen much, they bring it in always and everywhere. Is it necessary? Let's get it right.
What is peat?
To begin with, remember where and how this peat is formed. In any reservoir lives a huge number of plants, animals and microorganisms. Their life cycle ends sooner or later, and they all die. In the river, their remains are blown away by the current, but in reservoirs with stagnant water, they gradually, year after year, settle to the bottom, layering on top of each other and pressed by the thickness of the water. Moreover, this process is ongoing. Marshes are the best option for this - peat is formed in conditions of 100% humidity and lack of air.
However, this peat itself can be of different types, because the process is ongoing: some of the remains were “processed” and decomposed a long time ago, thousands of years ago, and some upper part is still in the process of “processing”. Depending on the degree of decomposition, there are:
- Peat of the lower layers - “lowland” - completely decomposed, with a neutral reaction (pH 4.2-5.5).
- Peat of the upper layers - “high” - poorly decomposed, in which intense physical and chemical transformations occur. Its distinctive feature is high acidity (pH 2.5-3.2), fibrous structure and low content of mineral elements.
Of course, there is also transitional peat, as it were intermediate, located between the upland and lowland. The processes in it have not yet ended completely; therefore, it has a weakly acid reaction (pH 3.2–4.2), but there are already quite a lot of nutrients and various microelements.
Figuratively speaking, peat is a kind of underwater compost. But, unlike real compost, you need to use it skillfully, knowing all its features. Often, not experienced, but wealthy gardeners buy peat in large quantities and use it as compost - generously sprinkling them with beds and trunks, expecting a good harvest or decoration from their plants. But this is wrong.
When is peat application necessary?
Although peat is an organic fertilizer, it is basically a mixture of completely or semi-decomposed plant residues. And do not wait for peat to instantly increase soil fertility. In fact, there are not so many nutrients in peat. The nitrogen content in it can be from 0.6 to 2.5% (high peat) and from 1.3 to 3.8% (lowland peat), trace elements: Zn up to 250 mg / kg, Cu 0.2-85 mg / kg, Co and Mo 0.1-10 mg / kg, Mn 2-1000 mg / kg.
This amount can not significantly saturate the soil of your site with nutrients. But nevertheless, peat is able to significantly improve the structure of the soil, make it loose or, as they say, air - and moisture-absorbing. In such soil, air and moisture quickly penetrate to the roots and stay there for a long time, plants develop better, which means they give a good harvest and look beautiful.
Therefore, the main function of peat as a fertilizer is to improve the quality of the soil itself, and not its nutrition. In a soil fertilized with such peat, the root system of a plant can better extract all the nutrients it needs that are already there, or that we add in the form of organic or mineral fertilizing. And this, perhaps, is the main feature of the use of peat in garden plots.
It makes no sense to introduce it if you have black soil or sandy loamy, loamy nutrient soil. It will not do anything, the proverb “you can't spoil the porridge with butter” doesn’t work here. No, you won’t spoil it, but knowing the price of peat, why waste money?
A completely different matter is clay or poor sandy soils, that is, structureless ones. Here peat, like fertilizer, works very well. It loosens clay soils, allowing the roots to develop normally, and gives it structure to the sand, allowing it to retain moisture and nutrients well.
This implies the main rule for the use of peat - only combining it with other types of fertilizers: organic or mineral. Peat is simply a reservoir, an accumulator, an assistant for retaining the nutrients you make in the soil, and, first of all, in the root zone.
How much peat to soil and how?
In principle, plants can be grown in pure peat, subject to regular feeding. By the way, this is exactly how plants are grown in container production for sale, because the cost of transporting plants depends on weight, and clean peat is much lighter than a full-fledged nutritious soil mixture. But, I repeat, this is possible only with regular artificial nutrition of plants.
In practice, in home gardening, 30-40 kg of peat is scattered per 1 sq. Km. meter and dig on a bayonet shovel. You can do this in the fall and spring.
This is done if finances allow. Many gardeners use a more economical option - they make peat compost. As a matter of fact, its production is no different from ordinary compost, but layers of plant waste are not interbedded with clean land, but with peat added land. At the same time, the nitrogen contained in peat becomes more accessible to plants, and peat itself holds all useful substances well.
The mixture is obtained and loose, and nutritious, and economical. And what could be better for us and our plants? An alternative is to mix peat with chernozem, turf or humus and add this mixture to your poor soil. By the way, properly prepared peat compost in its value is considered even better than manure and much less is required.
Often you can read or hear the application of peat as a mulching material. Like, sprinkle peat annually with a layer of 5-8 cm in near-stem circles: both moisture will be retained, and weeds will not germinate, and peat itself will nourish the plants. Not certainly in that way. The fact is that peat dries very quickly under the influence of hot air, losing nutrients and, most importantly, moisture. Soaking such peat again is incredibly difficult, and even a good wind can blow it to the neighboring site.
Therefore, for the proper use of peat as mulch, it is laid out on the surface in the wet season, and when heat and drought begin, they immediately and carefully dig a bayonet half a bayonet full of shovels to a depth, evenly mixing peat and soil. Only in this way will peat work like mulch.
The use of acidic peat
All of the above methods for improving the soil with peat relate to lowland and intermediate peat, the acidity of which is close to neutral. But sour peat with pH 3-4 is also on sale. What is it for? First of all, for plants that need slightly acidic or even acidic soils for normal life. Popular examples are hydrangeas, heathers, blueberries, rhododendrons, azaleas.
When organizing a seat or a bed with plants such as one of the components of the soil mixture, it is acidic peat that acts. Moreover, these plants periodically mulch with the same acid peat, maintaining acidity at the right level.
Horse peat itself has a fibrous structure (it has not yet completely decomposed) and a large moisture capacity (up to 70%). Often these qualities are also used in the cultivation of "ordinary" plants that love a neutral soil reaction. How? Its excess acidity is pre-neutralized with garden alkaline preparations (slaked lime and dolomite flour).
What is the advantage of such peat? In the composition of soil mixtures, its fibrous structure retains moisture well, and nutrients do not coalesce for a long time, allowing the roots to develop uniformly in all directions. Peat does not decompose for a long time, which means that it “works” for a long time without being washed into the lower layers of the soil. Mulch from such peat has good heat-insulating properties, the root system of your plants will not freeze in winter and overheat in summer. Such peat is also good for growing potted and container plants - the root system in it grows easily and evenly.
The advantages of peat and the rationality of its use
So, what is important to know when applying peat on a site?
- Peat alone does not nourish plants, but helps them better absorb other fertilizers.
- The soil into which peat was introduced becomes more structural, i.e. consisting of lumps and pores, like a sponge. Such soil retains moisture, air and nutrients well.
- Peat makes sense only on poor, infertile or depleted soils.
- Peat is considered a natural antiseptic and inhibits the development of harmful fungi and bacteria.
- Peat (horseback) can regulate the acidity of the soil, adjusting it to the needs of plants.
And one more interesting moment. Not so long ago, a liquid preparation based on an extract from peat was developed, introduced into production and sold. Peat is subjected to special treatment, enriching with nitrogen and preserving all its inherent trace elements and nutrients. True, peat loses its main quality - to improve the structure of the soil. So, decide for yourself.
Fertile soil and good harvests!