What Is Peat Moss? Should I Use It For Gardening?

If you have not heard the term “Peat moss” before, you are not all alone. There are various people out there who do not know what peat moss is. In this blog, we are going to tell you everything related to peat moss along with its benefits and drawbacks.

Peat moss is used as a common additive to soils. Many growers use peat moss all around the world. It is a spongy kind of material that producers sell in bales or bags. Growers use peat moss in place of compost. Its air and dry texture absorbs water magnificently. So, let’s know more about this material right below!

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Peat Moss is a product of organic materials such as sphagnum moss. This moss is dark brown in color. It takes around thousands of years to decompose it. Peat moss decomposes really slowly due to its anaerobic nature. Peat moss is generally referred to as sphagnum peat moss as most of the dead material in a peat bog arrives from sphagnum moss, which grew on the bog’s top. The decomposition rate is quite low as the process happens with the absence of air. As a matter of fact, Peat moss decomposes just one millimeter in a year. This is the reason; many producers drain peat bogs to get hands on peat moss deposits. These people take out peat moss so as to process it and then, dry it. Once done, they sell peat moss to various gardening stores.

What is Peat Moss

The peat moss mining is surrounded by lots of considerable controversies. The mining process is regulated and hence, only 0.02 percent of the reserves are accessible for harvesting peat moss. There are certain groups like the International Peat Society that keep a check on peat moss. As per their reports, the peat moss mining process emits out huge amounts of carbon into the environment. This exhaling process keeps on working even after the conclusion of the mining process.

Difference Between Peat, Peat Moss, and Sphagnum Moss

Generally, people use the terms peat and peat moss alternatively. However, these two things are not the same. Peat is a product that is created from organic materials. It usually gets submerged into the peat bogs. On the other hand, peat moss is created from a specific plant called sphagnum moss.

Sphagnum moss, a plant, grows on the surface above the peatland, swamp, or soil. This plant thrives well in wet and cold weather. Its older part keeps on sinking into lower deposits. The decomposition process takes place really slow due to the absence of oxygen. After a long period of time, a dead layer of peat moss emerges.

History of Peat Moss

In earlier times, people used to utilize peat moss as a fuel source. Some countries used dry peat like this for several centuries. Just like other fossil fuels, peat highly contains carbon. Around the 1940s, people started to use peat in horticulture.

As of now, people widely use peat moss as a soilless mix, soil amendment, mushroom casting, seed starting, and in many other ways.

Where To Find Peat Moss?

Peat moss is widely available on the northern hemisphere’s wetlands of the earth. Peat bogs are another common source of peat moss. Peat bogs cover about 3% of the surface of Earth, which develop over thousands and thousands of years.

In the United States, entire peat mosses come from Canada’s vast areas of sphagnum moss.

In addition to it, Russia comprises the highest amounts all over the world when it comes to peat moss. Canada comes in the second position after Russia. This country has over 25% of the peat moss in the world. After these two countries, come countries like Sweden, Finland, and others.

Mining of Peat Moss

The mining process of peat moss takes a lot of time and labor. In Canada, peat mosses are thoroughly analyzed whether if they are having any long-term outcome on the atmosphere or not. People go for conservable and sustainable ways for mining peat moss there.

The mining process involves various steps: 

  • 1
    In the first place, people dig several ditched around the peatland so as to drain out water.
  • 2
    After that, they get rid of the plane vegetation to expose the peat.
  • 3
    Next, these people level the field to avert the surface runoff’s drainage.
  • 4
    After leveling, they harrow the upper layer to accelerate the process of drying of peats.
  • 5
    After a few days, these workers suck the dry layer of peats with a big vacuum harvester.
  • 6
    Lastly, the yielded peats need to be transported to a firm for processing, cleaning, airing, and showing into various packages and labels.
peat moss mining

Benefits of Peat Moss

Some of the benefits of peat moss are listed as follows:

  • Sterile: Peat moss is best due to its sterility. This material does not contain any harmful chemicals, fungus, weed seeds, or bacteria. It is great for seedlings because of their vulnerability.
  • Cleanliness: Peat moss is really clean as compared to other growing materials. It is a lot easier to work with peat mosses. If falls down, just let it dry and sweep off the floor easily.
  • Availability: There is no problem in finding peat moss. In the United States, you can look for peat moss in nurseries and garden stores.
  • Moisture Retention: This material retains and absorbs water really quickly. Due to this characteristic, it mixes well with growing materials and proves extremely good for seed starting.
  • Acidic: Peat mosses have low pH values ranging from 3.5pH to 6pH on an average. It also depends on the mining process. This material is good for acidic plants like blueberries and strawberries.
  • Compaction Prevention: Peat moss is not at all compact that is really great as compared to other organic materials. This property helps to prevent compaction of soil. The soil compaction makes the soil useless, reduces water absorption, and does not offer a good medium to grow plants. Plus, peat moss can be easily re-hydrated. Peat moss is really awesome as its single application can prevent soil compaction for several years.

Drawbacks of Peat Moss

Some of the drawbacks of peat moss include the following:

  • Lack of Nutrients: Peat mosses do not comprise any nutrients or other helpful microbes. This makes it important to add other materials to it. Otherwise, your plant will not grow properly and strongly.
  • Dry: Peat mosses hold water for a long period of time. However, it takes a lot of time to get the moisture on becoming completely dry. So, it is best to mix peat moss with media or soil to retain moisture.
  • Watch out for pH: Some plants can flourish well due to its low pH value while others cannot. For other plants, you need to add high pH materials such as lime so as to create an alkaline environment. On the other hand, the soil can suffer if one adds too many soil amendments to modify the pH value. Hence, the natural soil is the perfect option to grow plants.
  • Non-Renewable: As the decomposing process of peat moss takes a long period of time, it is considered a non-renewable product. That’s why; growers look for its alternatives.
  • Expensive: Peat moss is not cheap when compared to other growing materials. If looking for a cheap product, you can go with compost.

What Are Peat Moss Uses?

If you are wondering ‘what is peat moss used for’, you will get answers in this section. Most of the gardeners make use of peat moss as a soil amendment or for potting soil. Due to its acidic pH value, peat moss is an ideal material for acid loving plants like camellias and blueberries. In addition to this, peat moss does not comprise weed seeds or other harmful microorganisms.

Peat Moss Uses

When we talk about peat moss uses, one cannot forget about the seed starting process. It plays a vital role as a seed starting medium. For effective results, always mix peat moss with other ingredients as peat moss is not a good potting medium on its own. Some of the other peat moss uses include hydroponic growing, potting soil, acid loving plants, seed starting, transplanting plants, fortifying lawns, composting, etc. So, let’s have a look at these uses in detail right below!

How to Use Peat Moss Properly

When it comes to peat moss uses, there are several ways in which you can use it. However, it is not a standalone material to grow plants. You need to mix peat moss with other materials to make it work. So, let’s move to peat moss uses!

How to Use Peat Moss

1. Soil Amendment

People use peat moss as a soil amendment for many years. It improves drainage and softens heavy and clay soils. Peat mosses help to retain nutrients and moisture for roots in sandy soils. For better results, you need to add 2 parts of soil to 1 part of peat moss.

As you know, peat moss changes the soil’s pH value. You need to keep this thing in mind while using peat moss as a soil amendment. That’s why; watch out and measure the pH value just in case it drifts too much.

2. Hydroponic System

This material serves as a great grow-media for hydroponic systems. Do not use peat moss alone for this purpose as peat moss begins to decompose when come in contact with too much nitrogen and oxygen. In that case, the material around the plant roots starts to compress and can choke the plants. To prevent this, you need to mix it with other media like vermiculite or perlite. This helps to balance out the aeration and moisture.

3. Seed Starting

Peat moss is really effective in starting seeds due to its sterility. It offers good aeration, low fertile, excellent drainage, and fine texture, which is great for germination. Peat mosses also prevent fungi and bacteria from seeds because of its antiseptic properties.

For the seed starting purpose, you can mix peat moss with other soils or can even use it alone. You can even go for the soilless mix comprising of peat moss, coconut coir, perlite, vermiculite, and other things in different quantities. It even helps to prevent bacteria, fungus, diseases, weed seeds, etc. found in the soils.

4. Acid Plants Growing

Due to lower pH values, peat mosses are best to grow fruits and vegetables that need acidic surroundings. Such plants include camellias, pieris, azaleas, tomatoes, blueberries, heathers, etc. While plants that need alkaline soils, it is best to go with compost as compared to peat moss. For these plants, compost will be a superior choice than anything else.

5. Potting Soil

It is really beneficial to add compost to plants. In order to mix peat moss with soil, you can go for potting soil. You need to add other materials like perlite or vermiculite while mixing peat moss with soil. If looking for organic materials, you can go for compost and leaf mold.

6. Transplanting Plants

Shrubs and trees add dimension and texture to yards without demanding much care. However, transplanting trees could be a real challenge if the soil does not encourage healthy growing conditions. To resolve this issue, it is best to add peat moss to the clay-based or sandy soil while transplanting shrubs and trees.

Peat moss provides body to the sandy soil due to its fluffy texture. Its lightweight consistency offers better air to shrubs or trees by loosening up the dense clay. For effective results, add 2 parts of soil to 1 part of peat moss to surround the root ball of trees or shrubs.

7. Fortifying Lawns

For a healthy lawn, you need tremendous water drainage, good fertile, and soils rich in nutrients. Peat moss helps you to attain all these factors. For seeding lawns, you need to apply about a 3-inch layer of the sphagnum peat moss over soils. In existing lawns, just spread a ½-inch peat moss later and spread over the whole area. Keep the quantity in check while using peat moss for lawns!

8. Composting

By constructing a compost pile, you can fertilize your lawn and plants in an environmental-friendly way. To create good compost, one can add food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. In order to create effective compost, do not forget to add peat moss to the mix. It will balance out the decomposition process. Peat mosses decompose slowly than other compost materials.

Peat moss helps to retain nutrients in the compost mix. For effective results, add 4 parts of compost to 1 part of peat moss. Keep tossing the mix after every two weeks. If you smell a strong odor, add the peat moss layer, which will cut back the smell.

Peat Moss for Sale

If you are looking for some organic and pure peat moss, we have some recommendations. Check out the following products!

1. Out Grow Natural Peat Moss

This peat moss from Out Grow is 100% organic and natural. Out Grow peat moss is a great all-purpose soil amendment and growing media. It is made from a unique cell structure, which helps to regulate air and moisture around the roots of the plant.

Pros

  • 100% organic
  • Absorbs water really well
  • No additives

Cons

  • Not standalone material

Sphagnum Peat Moss from the brand Four Winds Trading is a really good product. It is made for gardening with 100% sphagnum peat moss. This peat moss is perfect for outdoor and indoor use. It offers a good substrate for all plants. This product is superb for Venus fly traps. It can be used for hydroponic systems.

Pros

  • 100% pure peat moss
  • No additives
  • Retains moisture perfectly

Cons 

  • A bit expensive

This is another peat moss from the brand Premier. Premier peat moss is an organic product. You can use this peat moss for horticulture. It improves aeration and supports excellent drainage. To use this, you need to mix peat moss with soils or other materials.

Pros

  • Fully organic
  • No additives
  • Helps to loosen compact soils

Cons 

  • Need to be mix with other growing materials

How To Grow Peat Moss?

Peat moss flourishes in shady and moist environments with low pH levels. Such areas include swamps and bogs throughout moderate climates. In order to grow sphagnum peat moss, you need to transplant parts of a live plant into a restricted environment, which will assist the thriving reproduction of moss spores.

Environmental Concerns

Due to several environmental concerns, most people oppose peat moss. The very first opposition is that peat moss is a non-renewable product. This is so because it takes thousands of years to renew. Hence, it is not environment safe when comes to usage in a growing medium.

On the other hand, the harvesting process of peat moss is a non-sustainable practice. This process needs to be regulated and analyzed with utmost care. Also, peatlands contain a great amount of carbon. There are several environmental groups who look out for the mining process of peat moss.

The International Peat Society signifies that the process of harvesting peat moss releases carbon in large amounts into the environment. It continues to happen even after the process of mining. Hence, it affects the ecosystem drastically.

Why Not To Use Peat Moss In Large Quantities?

Because of the environmental concerns, it becomes really challenging to use peat moss. When the topics related to global warming become hot, people point towards this material. Certainly, it takes a lot to produce this material. The harvesting and mining processes of peat moss have harmful effects on the environment. Due to peat moss’ long-term effects on the surroundings, it is better not to use this material. Instead of peat moss, you can choose its alternatives for growing plants.

using peat moss in garden

On the other hand, peat moss is non-renewable. It is better to reduce the use of peat moss to just container, pot, soilless mixing, and seed starting in place of lawn work and soil amendment in large amounts. If you care for the environment, you need to use peat moss in a very small quantity for your gardening projects in a wise, economic, and effective manner. Or else, choose the other alternatives to peat moss while replacing it completely.

Other Alternatives To Peat Moss

Most of the people look for peat moss’ substitutes. This is so because of the environmental concerns, grower preference, and affordability. If you are looking for an alternative to peat moss, there are several choices out there. These alternatives share all great properties of peat moss. So, know about these alternatives right below!

1. Compost

Compost shares various commonalities with sphagnum peat moss. These properties include a great product as a soil amendment, retaining of water, etc. Decayed organic products such as vegetable scraps, animal manures, leaves, and rotted plants made compost.

Compost is also made from decomposed materials like peat moss.  Compost have a neutral pH value and often compact. Additionally, compost holds more nutrients and microorganisms as compared to peat moss. However, compost contains seeds of weed if not heated or processed properly. It does not offer a uniform composition based on the source. It decomposes in the air presence, which is not the case with peat moss. One can even make composts at home or can even buy them locally.

2. Coconut Coir

Coconut Coir is another best alternative to peat moss. This husk comprises spaces between its particles. This makes it best for aeration. Coconuts are abundantly found in countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Coconut Coir shares several traits with sphagnum peat moss such as high porosity and great retaining of water. This material has a neutral pH value and is easier to locate than peat moss.

3. Leaves

It is another great peat moss alternative. Dried leaves work great as a soil amendment if broken to pieces. You can even go with fine pieces of wood. For better drainage, it is best to opt for sand. You can add a fine sand layer around some vine vegetables and fruits. Watermelon is one such fruit, where you can choose a fine sand layer over peat moss.

4. Perlite

Not many people know about the material called Perlite. This material looks like small foam balls, which is a volcanic rock product. One can get this product from various online as well as office gardening stores. Perlite retains water really well while keeps nutrients along roots. It even makes the soil airy.

However, it is also a non-renewable material. But it is cheaper than peat moss. Perlite is efficient when it comes to volume.

5. Vermiculite

Vermiculite is another alternative to peat moss. Most people relate vermiculite to perlite but they are not the same. Perlite is created from the volcanic glass through superheating process. It resembles popcorn or foam. On the other hand, Vermiculite is spongy and soft. It is made from aluminum iron-magnesium silicates through superheating. Vermiculite looks like mica when it comes to appearance.

Vermiculite absorbs water thrice its own volume. It works really well in retaining water and nutrients for plants so as to help them to grow. This characteristic makes it a better soil amendment for the health and growth of roots.

Other alternatives to sphagnum peat moss include rice hulls, pine bark, cocoa shells, shredded tree pruning, chipped bark, straw, and various others.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, peat moss is a nice product for gardening due to its various benefits. It is good for starting seeds and wonderful for soil amendment. Peat moss has a low pH value, which makes it suitable for acid-bearable plants. However, you cannot use peat moss alone. It is recommended to mix it with other growing materials. Also, peat moss is going to cost you some money. It is definitely not for you if you grow on a large scale. In that case, you can go for compost.

As stated earlier, peat moss is non-renewable. If you care for the environment, reduce peat moss uses to seed starting and soilless mixes. It is better to not use peat moss for lawn and soil amendment in huge amounts. In case, you completely like to replace peat moss, go for alternatives like coconut coir, compost, pine bark, etc.

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