Peat Moss vs. Coconut Fiber
Coconut fibers considered best alternative to peat
Peat is a common component in growing media used to produce ornamental plants. Studies continue to look for suitable alternative components that could replace peat. Researchers in the Dept. of Agronomy, Forestry and Land Management at the Univ. of Turin, Italy, evaluated 5 materials (local green compost, pumice, coconut fibers, coconut “peat” and pine bark) as media components. 3 camellia cultivars, which prefer acidic soils, were produced in media consisting of peat alone and in combination with the alternative components.
Peat moss has long been a recommended ingredient of terrestrial mixes (see Bertsch, 1980). Yet there is a vast difference between German peat and Canadian, or sphagnum, peat. The majority of peat moss sold in garden centers and mass market outlets in the U.S. is Canadian (Sphagnum) peat. It is finely milled and designed to be added to soil as an amendment to hold water. It is also the basis of most so-called "soilless" mixes in the United States (Coir - or milled coconut fiber is used in Europe] Coarse, chunky German peat, in low proportion to other ingredients such as fir bark, can enhance a mix's water retention while not unduly decreasing its porosity. Sphagnum peat, in contrast, is a fine-grade peat. Even in small amounts it tends to finely disperse, only to rise and coalesce, forming an impervious mat on the surface of the mix. With such a "cap" across its top, a potting mix cannot "breathe" properly. Roots and plants under such anaerobic conditions can be unhealthy.