Peat pots are popular with gardeners for their ease in sprouting seeds and the ability to plant the whole pot with plant without disturbing the root system. Seeds require moisture to germinate, and peat pots are famous for water retention. Mold also loves moisture, and sometimes white furry moulds can appear on the sides and bottoms of peat pots to the dismay of many plant owners.
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Peat moss is harvested by large vacuums that sweep moss fields and is left to dry in stacks. Microorganisms have amply time to proliferate in these stacks, especially if the humidity is high. According to the American Journal for Respiratory Critical Care, Penicillium and Monocillium are abundant moulds present in these peat stacks. Although it is possible for these moulds to travel with unprocessed peat, it is unlikely these are the moulds found on commercial pots.
Unprocessed peat is compressed in pots and seed pellets for retail sales. Peat pots are a low-maintenance way to start plants indoors or in greenhouses. This indoor growing convenience also brings increased humidity and sometimes crowded conditions that serve to feed the peat pot mould situation.
Peat Pot Mold
According to University of Hawaii Extension Service, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a non-specific airborne mould that loves temperate moist areas. This is the common fuzzy white mould you will most likely find on peat pots that have been wet for too long. Some 361 plant species are susceptible to this mycelium produced from sclerotia. Wipe the mould off your pots or simply let them dry out.
Extra light and aeration are two keys to preventing mould growth on peat pots. Water your peat pots from the bottom up, but make sure they are not sitting in water for long periods of time. Remove any plastic coverings as soon you spot seeds sprouting. Water your peat pots with hydrogen peroxide diluted one part to 20 parts water to discourage mould.
There are alternatives to using peat pots if managing mould is bothersome or a health risk. Coir is derived from the fibres of coconut shell and made into peat-free pots. Odour-free cow manure pots are quickly replacing peat and also recycle an abundant agricultural waste at the same time. Convenient pots made of newspaper and empty toilet paper rolls can still be planted whole without disrupting delicate plant roots or the environment.
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- Greenhands: Beating the Deadly Fungus, by Catherine Holmes Clark, 2002
- American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine: Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis in Peat Moss Processing Plant Workers, Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med., Volume 158, Number 2, August 1998
- University of Hawaii at Manoa: Sclerotinia sclerotiorum
- Planet Green: For Peat's Sake, Find a Renewable Alternative, By Jasmin Malik Chua, March 18, 2008