I was asked recently if peat pellets expire. I actually didn’t have a good answer, although I had an idea. To be sure, I did some thorough research and thought I would share my findings in this article.
Peat pellets do not have a specified expiration date, and many users have reported good results following five years of storage. Their extended shelf life is due to dehydration and compression preserving the pellets. Provided you keep your peat pellets dry, they should last until you need them.
For some users, there are many advantages to pellets over using a traditional bag of soil, and is why they now won’t use anything else to start their seedlings.
What is the Expected Shelf-Life of Peat Pellets?
Peat pellets are something you can buy in bulk and use over several years. Not only are they easy to store, but they are also a convenient way to get your seeds growing.
Peat pellets are not sold with an expiration date on them. Consumers have reported using them five years later, without noticing any effect on the quality of their seed germination.
Contrastingly, a bag of seeding soil will typically start to lose its nutritional value within six months.
The longevity of peat pellets is a significant advantage for the occasional gardener. How is such a long shelf-life possible, though?
Well, when you consider what peat pellets are made from, this makes sense, as there isn’t anything in the pellets that can decay or spoil during storage.
How Pellets are Made
Peat is naturally formed at a rate of one millimeter per year. It is the accumulation of partially decomposed organic matter derived from mosses, sedges, and shrubs that are typically found near ponds, ridges, and bogs. Wet conditions, along with dry spells, are needed for its formation. Peat is biomass rich in combustible organic matter.
Consequently, it is a source of fuel in many societies. Other than its use as a fuel source, peat is seen as an excellent material for growing organic produce due to its high nutritional density.
Peat pellets are compressed, dehydrated disks of peat. The peat used in most pellets is comprised of decayed Sphagnum moss. The properties of Sphagnum moss help the stability of the peat pellet because it contains phenolic compounds which are difficult to break down.
To help gardeners, peat pellets are infused with lime, and a fertilizer with a low ammonium content is added to assist in the seedling’s growth.
The final “ingredient” of a peat pellet is a biodegradable mesh that holds the pellet together. When water is added, the peat re-expands, rising to seven times its original height, and the mesh expands with it, creating a “pot” for the pellet.
None of these components can degrade or lose their vitality without water. As long as you keep the pellet dry, it should be fine to use on your next set of seeds.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Peat Pellets?
Naturally, there are a few drawbacks to this gardening technology, including the expense.
Traditionally, most planters use plastic seed trays, like these found on Amazon, filled with loose soil to get their seedlings started.
By contrast, peat pellets are seen as a new and novel method for starting your plants despite them having been around for years. As with everything, there are pros and cons to using peat pellets instead of plastic seed trays for your seedlings.
Here are just a few things to consider:
Advantages of Using Peat Pellets
Peat pellets, commonly known as Jiffy pellets (Amazon Link) after the leading brand, are a method of giving your seedlings everything they need to thrive.
- Easily stored
As peat pellets come as uniform discs, so they are easy to store by stacking on a shelf. This is far easier than a bag of seeding soil, which can be too heavy and cumbersome for some people. Their shape and size also make the shipping of peat pellets possible.
- Peat stays tidy
The mesh bags that the peat pellets are distributed to retain the peat well. For growers with irrigation systems or other clog considerations, this can be a game-changer compared to using loose soil. It is also far less messy to start the process.
Most brands of peat pellets are certified organic by the Organic Materials Review Board (OMRI). Such considerations might be relevant to some users.
- Easy to use
The ease of use is the most significant feature of peat pellets. All you need to do is put the pellet in a tray and add water. There is no need to add fertilizer or any other growth-assisting product. Watching the peat expand is even fun! It will take 30-60 minutes for the pellets to fully hydrate and will rise to a full height of about three inches. Following this, you can plant your seeds.
- Can reuse the trays
You can purchase peat pellet refills, like these found on Amazon, to use each year. This will save you from having to buy a new tray each time you want to start growing some seeds.
- Reduces transplant shock
When you move seedlings from their plastic tray into their final pot or the ground, they tend to experience shock at the new environment. With peat pellets, the entire plant is still contained in the mesh bag before transplantation. Due to this, the plant is most likely to take to the new soil well.
Disadvantages of Using Peat Pellets
Peat pellets can be double the price of Flexiplugs and triple the cost of starting your own seedlings in bagged soil. Depending on the size of your enterprise, this can be an unjustifiable investment.
- Mesh doesn’t degrade quickly
One of the selling points of manufacturers of peat pellets is that the mesh that the pellet is contained within degrades. While that may be true, many users have reported that the mesh doesn’t degrade for years. This is not only a concern for the green thumbs, but it is also unsightly to see that throughout the garden.
- Needs more watering
The pellets dry out quicker than soil in a plastic tray does. If watering is something you tend to forget; then this could be a drawback to using peat pellets. Generally, though, no matter what method you use, your seedlings want to be watered each day. This will keep the solid moist but not wet. If you cannot commit to a daily watering ritual, then perhaps planting seeds isn’t for you.
Peat pellets will store for years in a dry, cool environment without any loss of potency. Without water, bacteria and fungi cannot continue the decay process, nor can the mosses, sedges, or shrubs that created the peat. Whereas, bagged soil can lose its nutrient value far quicker – sometimes within six months.
Pellets are easy to use, store, and get results with. Provided you do not push the seeds in too deep, they should germinate with a healthy root system. While the expense may be a drawback to some consumers, it is tidier and quicker compared to using loose soil.
I recommend using a seedling propagation dome, like this type found on Amazon, to move things along.
For more, don’t miss Which Fertilizer Makes Plants Grow Faster? | Optimum Growth Guide.
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When Should You Transfer the Peat Pellet into a Bigger Container or the Garden?
One of the most significant advantages of peat pellets is the ability to transfer the entire thing into a planting pot once the seeds have germinated, and the root system has developed. You want to watch your pellet pots closely to establish when it is best to make the transfer.
Plant roots are strong enough to penetrate the biodegradable mesh that creates the structure of the mesh. Therefore, you want to transfer the seedling into a bigger pot or the ground before this happens. Although it is dependent on the plant, this will typically occur around 4-6 weeks after seeding.
Can You Use Peat Pellets in Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of gardening that uses a nutrient-rich, water-based system. In these environments, it is best to start your seeds in cubes of inorganic material, which peat pellets are not.
Peat pellets are not advisable with these systems because the irrigation network will often get clogged with material from the pellet that will break down with this sort of watering.
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