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Peat: what it is and where it comes from
Peat is one of the most important organic materials used in the cultivation of ornamental plants, both natural and combined with other products. It is a carbonaceous formation coming from a progressive decomposition of plant species that live in damp and cold environments, often aquatic. It derives, in particular, from the vegetation in a marshy area of mosses and sphagnum. Distinguished by a rather modest calorific value, distilled from acetic acid, it contains a tenth of the potassium and phosphorus present in the manure, and represents the result of a gradual transformation of plant residues that occurred over the centuries. Precisely because of the lack of potassium and phosphorus in it, it is not considered a fertilizer in all respects, but simply a soil conditioner. Characterized by a rather high rate of acidity, with a pH level between 3.5 and 4, it can be used naturally as long as it is corrected with calcium carbonate, which has the purpose of limiting its acidity. In fact, almost all plant species, except for the acidophilic species (as the name suggests), need a soil whose pH is between 5.5 and 6. Furthermore, the possibility of using peat should not be underestimated, and especially the peat coarse, in order to correct the soil when it needs to be made softer or softer.
Blond peats and dark peats
From the commercial point of view, peats are classified according to the type of structure and color. One speaks in particular of the degree of grinding, bearing in mind that tin peats, also known as moss or blonde peats, are the most suitable for the cultivation of plant species in pots, and therefore for apartment plants; they offer a reasonable water retention capacity. Specifically, the coarse and fibrous types allow good drainage and a discreet passage of air. Conversely, for potted plants it is advisable not to use dark peat. Entering into practice, the peat has the task of making the soil less compact, while improving drainage and aeration. It is used, among other things, to make substrates aimed at greenhouse crops, or to germinate individual seeds of species considered delicate. Anyone wishing to buy it can find it on the market in any garden center in bales of variable size and weight.
How it should be
It is good to know that a peat of excellent quality is fibrous and soft; vice versa, a sticky, damp and dark peat must be discarded, as it is of lower quality. To be able to improve the soil structure as a whole, at least two kilos of peat are needed for every square meter of soil, which must be buried in the area of digging. It is advisable to avoid using the peat dry, moistening it instead to prevent the plants from getting the water they need, of course. For sandy soils it is perfect a peat characterized by large filaments, very fibrous, while the clay soils prefer a finer peat: in any case, it is advisable to verify that in its composition we do not find weeds. Furthermore, peat should not be used for succulent plants (succulent plants), which instead need soil made up of field and inert soil, and possibly very little peat (which can however be replaced by woodland). Instead, we must avoid sowing a succulent plant (or repotting it) inside peat as well or in any case characterized by a few inerts. Not only because it risks suffocating the plant, but also because it becomes impervious by drying. The peat necessary for carnivorous plants, on the other hand, is called sphagnum acid. It comes from the decomposition of the sphagnum, a moss that grows especially in very acid and marshy environments. At the moment in which its life cycle comes to an end, its fibers undergo decomposition, and originate, over the centuries, this specific kind of peat.
What is the pH
In conclusion, it is worth specifying some notations regarding the aforementioned pH, that is the value that quantifies the basicity or the acidity of an element. Specifically, we speak of acidic elements in the presence of values between zero and seven, of basic elements in the presence of values between seven and fourteen, and of neutral elements in the presence of values equal to seven. As far as peat is concerned, its pH is calculated either through carbonated reaction or through water reaction. The value is indicated directly on the packages, taking into account that the carbonated reaction is indicated with the acronym Ca, while the water reaction is denoted by the initials H2O or by the absence of acronyms. To get the value in H20 starting from the carbonated reaction, we need to add 1.5. To give a concrete example, a pH Ca of 4 corresponds to a pH H2O of 5.5.
Equally important in the choice of peat is the amount of nitrogen. The element is essential for plants, but not for carnivorous plants, which live naturally in acid soils and without nitrogen. In their case, the concentration percentage should be less than a value of 0.5.
Peat: Where to buy peat
Peat is for sale in any nursery or garden center. Different types of peat exist on the market and almost always nurseries have at least a couple of peat proposals. It is in fact a material that is widely used by the nursery owners themselves for the realization of the seedling cultivation substrate. In fact, peat is indispensable for giving structure to the soil and combined with a soil enriched with organic substance and inert materials (such as medioperlite), it allows to obtain an exceptional mix for plant growth.
The nurserymen know very well how the quality of the soil is of fundamental importance for the growth of the seedlings and they are certainly not satisfied with discounted soils for their plants.
For this reason, in the garden it is easy to find peat both in large format (bales of half a cubic meter) and in smaller bags.