Summer, the season most home gardeners have been longing for, is almost here. Some have been watching their seedlings grow for weeks already, while others are dreaming about the perfect flower arrangements or the vegetable harvests to come. From relaxation, stress reduction to the development of self-confidence, gardening is known to be beneficial to both our mental and physical wellbeing. But this year, there seems to be more to it: everybody seems to be gardening.
More Time, Greener Yards
According to a recent study from Dalhousie University , 17 % of Canadian home gardeners started cultivating food at home for the first time in the past year. With less time spent commuting or working at the office as well as travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic, activities around the house grew in popularity. The availability of urban and home gardening products made it attractive for people and families in search of a new hobby. Some even compared this renewed enthusiasm for gardening to the “Victory Gardens”, the home gardens that were popular during World War I and II. Growing food from home is also seen as a solution to higher produce prices  or simply a way to access fresh herbs or juicy tomatoes directly from our own backyards. In the United States, 2020 has seen unprecedented revenue growth in garden retail, with sales growth reaching 23 to 37% depending on the region .
Peat-Based Growing Media
Experts agree that in home and urban gardening, as much as in larger-scale horticulture, a key element for growing plants is the quality of the soil. Whether growing directly in the soil, in pots or hanging baskets, choosing a Sphagnum moss peat-based growing media is an excellent way to ensure a good start for flowers, berries and vegetables.
Growing Media designate the material in which plants are grown. They can be made of different proportions of ingredients, including peat. They can also be referred to as “substrates” or “potting mix”.
Anyone who has visited a garden center recently will have noticed the number of growing media mixes available on the market. In North America, peat typically composes 52% of the growing media mixes . It is combined with a variety of other ingredients (bark, coir, perlite, compost, …) to create the perfect blend for virtually any garden use: seedlings, potting, tomatoes, berries, etc. Within those mixes, peat provides the 3 essential elements for plants: water retention, nutrient retention, and aeration.
Peat is known for its water-holding capacity: in its natural conditions, Sphagnum peat moss can retain 20 times its weight in water. For home gardeners, it means peat-based growing media allows to space out watering – and might even save plants from an unexpectedly sunny weekend. Similarly, peat also retains nutrients and makes them available for the plant’s root system. Peat’s natural porosity (inherited from the structure of the Sphagnum moss it originates from) also improves soil drainage and allows air to reach the roots.
Another benefit of using peat-based growing media is that it does not contain pests, weeds or pollutants that could harm your production. It is also lightweight, making it a perfect choice for hanging baskets or roof top gardens. When starting a raised-bed or container garden from scratch, peat is an excellent growing material that is easily available, high-quality and versatile: the ideal combination for all levels of home gardeners. Amending an in-ground garden with peat can also aerate heavy soils (like clay), improve the structure of light soils (like sand) and help balance aeration through the addition of organic matter.
A Responsible Choice for Green Thumbs
The Canadian Peat Moss Industry consists of companies that harvest the raw peat moss material, as well as companies producing the growing media mixes. For almost 30 years, the Canadian Horticultural Peat Producers Associations (CSPMA, APTHQ and APTNB) which represents most of the country’s Horticultural Peat companies, has been supporting science to develop Best Management Practices ensuring that the peatlands and the peat resource are managed responsibly. In addition, most peat-based growing media found at garden centers are certified under the Veriflora® Certification for Responsible Horticultural Peat Moss Production , guaranteeing “the application of good management practices in all aspects of sustainable development” . From extensive backyard gardens to tiny urban balconies, Canadian peat-based growing media is an excellent choice for all home-gardening projects!
After a while, peat-based growing media used in pots (both for houseplants and outdoor-gardening) must be replaced. The old potting mix is however still a useful material around the garden . It can be incorporated directly to flower beds or garden soil or thrown in the compost bin, where it is will support microorganisms and bacterial life, enhance the texture and enrich the composition of the soil by providing more organic matter. Talk about a useful second life!
-  Home Food Gardening During COVID-19, Agri‑Food Analytics Lab of Dalhousie University
-  Canada’s Food Price Report 2021, Agri‑Food Analytics Lab of Dalhousie University
-  State of the Industry White Paper, AmericanHort
-  2018 State of the Growing Media Research, Greenhouse Management
-  2017 Statistics about Peatland Areas Managed for Horticultural Peat Harvesting in Canada, Peat and Peatlands
-  Certification for Responsible Peatland Management, Peat and Peatlands
-  Recycle your used potting soil, Laidback Gardener