Should You Be Using Peat-Free Compost? [And Which To Buy]

Gardener picking up compost soil and applying it to flowerbedAs you make plans to prepare your garden for the growing season, you might be wondering if a peat-free compost is the right choice for you. That's why we've searched the internet to collect information about peat-free compost, its effect on the environment, and a list of the best peat-free compost options, and compiled it all right here in this article.

Peat-free compost is preferable as peat is not environmentally friendly, nor does it work any better than more sustainable options.

Peat-free compost can be a little more challenging to find, so to help you out, we've assembled a list of the best peat-free composts available. We'll also answer some of the more specific questions you might have. So, let's get started!

Should You Use Peat-Free Compost?

From an environmental standpoint, peat-free compost is the way to go. Peat moss, also known simply as peat, is ancient, compacted, and decomposed sphagnum moss harvested from bogs that exist primarily in Europe and the U.K. Since peat takes hundreds of years to form and we're using it faster than it is created, it's not considered a renewable resource. Peat bogs also create a delicate ecosystem that is ruined as the peat is harvested. And finally, peat contains climate change-causing carbon, which is released into the atmosphere when the bogs are drained during harvest.

Additionally, peat doesn't make unusually good compost or growing material. Even though it contains many nutrients, it also dries out quickly and blows away instead of decomposing into the soil. Peat is very helpful for aerating the soil, but there are more sustainable alternatives such as coconut coir or worm castings that work just as well. Coconut coir, in particular, has a comparable texture and aerating capabilities. To learn more about when to add compost to your garden, check out our article When to Add Compost to Your Garden?

Is Organic Compost Peat-Free?

Since organic compost tends to be made by companies that are reasonably aware of environmental issues, they typically sell compost that does not contain peat. However, this is not a guarantee. Unless a bag of compost explicitly states that it is peat-free, it's safe to assume that it contains peat.

Is Peat a Good Compost?

Even though peat has been used as compost for years, it's not very good for the environment, as we discussed earlier in this article. It also doesn't make the best compost since it dries out easily and can then blow away in the wind rather than decomposing in the soil. Coconut coir, worm castings, manure, and decomposed plant matter from your kitchen or garden make great substitutes. Check out our article How Long Does It Take to Compost in a Tumbler? to get started with making your own compost.

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Is Peat Moss Good For Clay Soil?

Peat moss is useful for aerating clay soil and making it more suitable for growing plants. However, it is also quite acidic and should be accompanied by lime to offset that tendency. However, it's not the only way you can improve clay soil. Peat-free compost and aged manure work just as well and don't increase the soil's acidity. You can also grow a cover crop such as crimson clover, buckwheat, or soybeans and then work it into the soil when the plants are a few inches tall to reduce the presence of clay. Check out our article How to Improve Clay Soil for Lawns for more ways to amend clay-rich soil.

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1. Charlie's Compost by Charlie's Compost

This organic compost uses chicken manure as its base ingredient. According to the manufacturer, it also contains cornstalks, straw, forest products, hay, clay, and beneficial microbe inoculants.

It comes in a 10 lb. bag, which is enough to amend about two cubic feet of soil. It can be mixed directly into the soil and doesn't need to be brewed in water first.

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2. Organic Plant Food 2-2-2 NPK and Iron by Super Compost

To give your plants a big boost of nutrients, this compost is a perfect choice. It's formulated from cow manure, alfalfa, and earthworm castings to create a compost that is nutrient-rich without the addition of peat.

Since it's extremely concentrated, this compost should be mixed with water at a 1:4 ratio. One 4 lb. bag creates about 20 lbs of compost "tea," which can be used for gardens or potted plants.

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3. OMRI Certified Organic Compost by Blue Ribbon Organics

Made by a small family business in Michigan, this compost is homemade backyard compost in a bag and is 100% peat-free. It contains brush trimmings, cut firewood, garden debris, grass clippings, horse bedding, leaves, sod, vegetable waste, and wood chips.

It is sold in 25 lb. bags and this compost can be used either straight from the bag or made into compost tea. Several reviews mention that it is completely bug- and larvae-free, which means that it is suitable for indoor potted plants in addition to gardens.

Click here to view this product on Amazon.

4. Organic All Natural Compost Extract by Great Big Plants

For extra convenience, try using this liquid compost that contains beneficial microbes, essential micronutrients, humic acid, and kelp. Liquid compost is especially great for potted plants since you don't have to deal with the large pieces of organic matter that are sometimes present in traditional dry compost.

Available in 32 oz, 1 gallon, or 2.5-gallon sizes, this compost is designed to be mixed with water in a 1:4 ratio. Reviews say that it is also an effective fertilizer that helped their plants double or triple in size.

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5. Organic Worm Casting Compost Tea by 5HEARTS

If you have a small garden or some potted plants that need some extra attention, this small bag of vermicompost is an excellent choice. Each bag comes with enough mesh bags to make several batches of compost tea, which can then be poured into a spray bottle or watering can for easy application.

This compost comes in an 8 oz bag, which is enough to make 1 gallon of compost tea. Just make sure to use it within a week or two!

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6. Real Worm Compost by Uncle Jim's Worm Farm

This product is another great option if you're looking for compost made with worm castings. According to the seller, it comes right from the compost bins their worms live in and sometimes even contains a live worm or two!

It comes packaged in a 4 lb cloth bag that some reviews say works wonderfully for making compost tea. You can use this compost either as a tea or straight out of the bag.

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7. Super Compost Liquid Compost by Earth Soil, Inc.

If you'd rather avoid the messiness of making compost tea, try a liquid compost like this one. This highly concentrated liquid compost is derived from earthworm castings, composted cow manure, alfalfa meal, blackstrap molasses, and soy protein hydrolysate.

This compost blend is entirely safe for people, pets, and wildlife and works for hydroponically grown plants. It comes in a 32 oz bottle, which can be mixed with water to create up to 5 gallons of compost.

Click here to view this product on Amazon.

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