Young couple planting up a window box of geranium with peat-free compost on a terrace

Plant geraniums in peat-free compost: protect the climate in your own garden

Geraniums are one of the hardiest and easiest to care for of summer flowers. They bloom for months with very little care and can be overwintered too. This is good for the environment. If you want to do even more to protect against climate change, then plant your geraniums in peat-free compost.

In this article you will find information on:

  • why peat-free compost is good for the environment
  • how to plant geraniums in peat-free compost

what is different about watering and fertilising peat-free compost for your geraniums.

Why peat-free compost is good for the environment

Peat-free composts are good for the environment because no peat has been extracted to produce them. Peat consists of dead plants that don’t decompose in the constantly wet bog soil. They accumulate and bind an incredible amount of carbon.

When peat is extracted, the bogs are drained. This brings oxygen into the compost, which combines with the carbon from the soil to form carbon dioxide. A large amount of harmful gases are released into the environment. Besides carbon dioxide, climate killers such as nitrous oxide and methane are also released during peat cutting. The draining of peatlands also disturbs the balance of water in entire regions, as well as destroying the habitat of rare plants and animals.

What’s in peat-free compost?

In peat-free composts, a combination of different rapidly renewable ingredients replaces peat. For example, they contain wood fibres, humus, compost or coconut fibre (coir). As a result, peat-free composts hold water differently to peat-based ones, and are more biologically active. This means you have to care for geraniums planted in peat-free compost in a different way to those grown in conventional ones. Here’s what works differently.

Proper watering of geraniums in peat-free compost

The ideal time to water geraniums is when the compost feels warm and dry. Test this by pushing a finger a few centimetres into the soil. This finger test is always important, but is crucial if you’re gardening with peat-free compost.

This is because they hold water differently to peat-based ones. Their surface dries faster, which sometimes makes the compost look drier than it actually is. On the other hand, peat-free composts also hold less moisture, so you’ll probably have to water more often. It all depends on the right time!

Fortunately, geraniums are hardy. They can cope well with short-term drought, although they will flower better with appropriate watering. However, they don’t like to be waterlogged at all.

General information on watering geraniums can be found here. 👉

Peat-free compost and appropriate fertilising

Peat-free composts lose nutrients more quickly than those containing peat. The faster take-up is due to peat-free composts being much more biologically active than their conventional counterparts. Also, the micro-organisms bind some nitrogen that the plants cannot use.

Adding extra hoof and horn meal or a similar slow-release nitrogen source can compensate for this deficit. Mix this, or the nitrogen source of your choice, into the compost as soon as you plant. Mixing in additional slow-release fertiliser won’t help, as you will give the geraniums too much potassium and phosphorus.

Start fertilising about four weeks after planting. Liquid fertiliser is the easiest way to do this.

For more information on how to use liquid fertiliser and what alternatives are available, click here. 👉

Six general tips for planting

Check that drainage holes in containers are free so excess water can run off.

Provide a drainage layer by adding 2cm of coarse gravel or expanded clay to the bottom of the container.

Before planting, place geraniums in water until the root ball is completely saturated.

Plant geraniums at the same height as they were in the pot they were grown in.

Don’t forget to water them after planting so the roots make contact with the potting compost, which they need to continue growing.

Special geranium compost best meets the needs of these beautiful South African native plants.

... and a special tip for gardening with peat-free compost

Buy only as much compost as you need. Peat-free compost deteriorates more quickly than peat-based compost as it contains more micro-organisms. It doesn’t go off, but the structure and the composition of the nutrients change.

For step-by-step instructions on how to plant a balcony box, click here. 👉

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