I'm putting in some new vegetable raised beds this spring. I don't have a composting bin yet, so I don't have any compost to rototill into the soil. I live out in the country, and our local top soil supplier sells 50 top soil/50 Michigan peat, in addition to 100% top soil. Should I use the peat since I don't have any compost??
What is the reason for wanting to add the peat? If it is just to soften up the soil and make it easier to work? Peat is organic matter and with enough of it can make a very easily workable garden bed. If you are wanting to add it for nutritional value, the peat is not much good. I have a book by Jim Crocket, who used to host the old victory garden show many years ago, the producer of the program was totally shocked by how much peat he had to add to the old parking lot garden plot to make the soil good enough for the host of the program.
Seedfork, This year I'm trying my hand at French Intensive Gardening with raised beds. As you turn the soil over, you mix in compost...but I don't have compost and no one around here sells compost by the yard. The soil here is mostly clay, but not to the point that it's like concrete.
I was hoping peat was a good 2nd choice. I'm just not sure what to do now...
I agree with Seedfork. If you want to add nutritional value peat is not a very good choice. If you have to use the peat, you may be want to add some lime (because peat is acidic) and some balanced fertilizer (either organic or not).
I probably don't know what I'm talking about but I add bagged steer manure when I feel my soil needs a nitrogen boost. It's cheap and the bags are easily managed. I did use some peat in the mix for my raised beds. It's good to help water retention, but I have sandy soil. There are also "soil conditioners" in bags that are good as additives.
The 50/50 top soil peat should work well. With time you can add compost. Clay soils are fairly fertile. Until you can add compost you can use a chemical or organic fertilizer to provide plant nutrients.
Depends on the area you live in, but peat is the step before it becomes coal. It CAN turn your soil into a really hard - water shedding ( not retaining) area. Peat can also burn for days even when wet. It basically depends on a LOT of different things to figure out first. Even compost turns into dirt after a bit of time... There are no sources like even a commercial source for compost?