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Alternatives to vermiculite and peat moss. For the growing tip, how to shred leaves.


CLAIM your organic fertilizer recipe, your "Greenhorn Gardener's Raised Bed Checklist," and a subscription to the Greenhorn Gardening weekly newsletter. These resources will help you save time and increase harvest, especially if you're just getting started.


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8 Responses to “GG 64 | Peat Moss & Vermiculite Alternatives”

  1. Dylan Says:

    Hey Damon, thanks for all the help in making us better gardeners! What are your thoughts on foregoing peat moss and vermiculite all together and just planting in pure compost? From what I understand compost is great at regulating moisture levels, which is basically the function of the peat moss and vermiculite in the mixture. Are they (or similar products) really necessary in a raised-bed system?

  2. Damon Says:

    Well, what kind of situation are you growing in? When you say raised bed are talking about a purely above-ground system like Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot gardening or more of a mounded-bed system where it’s more a traditional garden just mounded up?

  3. Dylan Says:

    I use an open-bottom raised bed system, probably a lot like your mounded-bed system. The plants definitely have access to the soil below, and my beds are filled with about 6-8 inches of municipal compost that is held in by 2×8 boards. I do use the square-foot planting method for plant spacing, but I wouldn't say that my beds are purely above ground.

  4. Damon Says:

    In that case, Dylan, yes, I would go with a total compost solution. Just keep doing what you're doing. What kind of results have you had with your current system, if you don't mind me asking?

  5. Dylan Says:

    Things are going well for the fall garden, especially now that I've installed the drip irrigation system. I'm growing kale, broccoli, oregano, bunch onions, dill, spinach, radishes, purple basil, black-seeded simpson lettuce, chives, parsley, cilantro, hyssop and carrots. After an abysmal failure of a summer garden, it's really nice to see so much green!

  6. Damon Says:

    Wow! That’s good to know that you’re garden is doing much better. Do you have any pictures?

  7. Jeremy Says:

    Hey guys, I was looking for some answers to this as well. I actually picked up some various composts and peat moss from HD recently and was hunting for coarse grade vermiculite (it's hard to come by around here!). I'm wondering if it's absolutely necessary though – I'm planning on setting up a couple 4'x4'x6" raised beds right on top of the native soil but with some weed blocker as well. The more I read about it, I see that vermiculite is the main component for retaining moisture/water and acting like a sponge. Is it right to assume that vermiculite would be most helpful in warmer/hotter climates where soil has the tendency to dry out? 
    I'm in SoCal and we had a brutally hot summer, but things have cooled down quite a bit with Fall here. All things considered, I'm guessing compost + peat moss would retain its moisture/water pretty well while the weather is cooler. Is this the right assumption? If so, I'm wondering if adding/mixing in vermiculite during the summer seasons (or during warmer weather streaks) would be the best use of it.
    Any ideas?

  8. Damon Says:

    You're in Southern California? If so raised beds are probably opposite what you need.  Sunken beds would help you retain water far better than any material.


    Honestly, any organic matter will both retain water in drought and help drain excess water during heavy downpours. Although the cracks in vermiculite help retain water, its primarily serves to drain excess water. I use coarse sand instead of vermiculite. 


    Raised beds heat up fast and dry out fast. Have you ever though of digging out your deep about six inches deep rather than raising it?

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