In a previous post, I mentioned that I would be looking at ways to go peat-free. There are concerns about the effects rapidly diminishing peat bogs and peat lands are having on the environment.
Peat is one of the most effective carbon sinks on the planet. A carbon sink accumulates and stores carbon-containing chemical compounds for indefinite periods. In doing so, they reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
As we know, carbon dioxide is one of the biggest causes of global warming. By continuing to remove peat from bogs at the rate we are, we are creating irreversible problems.
Peat, which is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetable or organic matter, takes thousands of years to form. We are currently using Peat up it up far quicker than it takes to make. This could make a situation, which is already out of control, as far as the environment is concerned, even worse. So, as much as I am a fan of using peat in growing Chillies, stop, I will. Other alternatives will need to be found.
I have already started some seeds for next season. I must admit I used peat pellets to start these seeds. The pellets are, however, what I have left over from the season that has just passed. Little would have been achieved by throwing these out. However, I have taken the first step in going peat-free.
Egg shells for seed starting
Where previously I would have potted on my seedling into peat pots, this year I used plastic (see note) and some fibre pots. I made up a mixture of seed starting compost and vermiculite. I then placed the peat pellets with the seedlings into the plastic pots. The seedlings then got covered with the compost/vermiculite mixture and given a good watering. The plants took to their new growing containers in no time at all. They are all doing exceptionally well
One thing I need to do now is to start investigating how I will start seeds once my peat pellets have run out. I am not a fan of Rockwell cubes or the paper towel method of starting seeds. The other option I can use is to begin the seeds in a peat free seed-starting compost directly in seed tray inserts. However, I find this to be a clumsy way of starting seeds, especially when it comes to potting on.
While researching other ways of starting seeds, I came across an image of seeds being started in half eggs shells. Thinking about it, this sounds like a good idea. I could simply fill the egg shells with peat free seed starting compost and sow the seeds into them. When it comes to potting on, the shell just has to broken off from around the seedling. From there, the seedlings can then be potted on in the same way as I did above.
The only problem with this I could think out about doing this is the watering of the seedling. I have found using a self-watering propagator is a very effective way of keeping seedlings moist. I thought it might create a problem if I wanted to continue using this system. But then it struck me; if I were to drill a small hole in the base of the shell, the problem could be solved. If I place the shells with the hole in on top of some vermiculite in the seeds trays. I could probably achieve the same, if not better, than using peat pellets.
What’s more, I don’t even have to use the tray inserts. I can’t see why I shouldn’t use the egg trays the eggs came in. I could cut holes into the bottoms of the egg trays and place that in contact with the capillary matting in the propagator. Doing this will keep the seedling in the shells moist. It should work. Let’s wait and see!
So. I will be experimenting. I am still waiting for my Rocoto seeds to arrive. They are running a bit late. However, I will use this method to germinate at least half of the seeds when they do come. There is no reason I can see this not working, except .perhaps, the drilling of the holes being a bit fiddly. Another thing I need to consider is the uniformity of the egg shells. It will be difficult to break the eggs in exactly the right place with a knife or the like. I will probably invest in an eggshell cutter
There are many more ways I can consider to go peat free in seed starting. I will discuss these in a future post
These are plastic pots I currently have. They are not single use and will be reused in future seasons.