Peat Moss in the Garden – Sphagnum Peat Moss Uses

Ed Wike
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What Is Peat Moss?

Peat moss is made of dead sphagnum moss. Spagnum moss is a water-loving bryophyte that grows well in acidic ground and is able to naturally adjust to the level of nutrients in the ground around it. It is also a forager. It harvests nutrients from the ground where it grows. When it is harvested for peat production, it is cut and dried. Air is then blown through it. The acidity in the wood is how the acidity is made in peat moss and it is the differing levels of acidity that makes one type of peat vs. another type of peat.

At the end of the wood fiber harvesting process, wood chips are used to compress the sphagnum moss and create blocks of peat moss. Depending on the level of acidity, the sphagnum moss is harvested at differing times. The sphagnum moss harvested earlier than the others because it has a lower acidity content than the other moss harvesting times.

Peat moss is typically sold in three different types. Sphagnum peat moss, reed peat moss, and acid-grade sphagnum peat moss. Each peat moss type has a different level of acidity as well as, a different range of nutrients that it is able to absorb.

Benefits of Peat Moss

There are several reasons why adding peat moss to your garden is a good thing:

First, it is an excellent source of organic material. It is highly compostable.

Second, unlike other forms of organic content – like leaves and sticks, or bark and limbs – peat moss remains evenly-sized. This means it is easier to spread.

Third, as a form of organic material, it can be blended with almost any type of soil.

You can not use pine needles, leaves, bark, pet hair, and animal dander in your garden. Every time you open a bag of peat moss, you're seeing the sort of organic material you can blend with the dirt in your garden.

One of the inherent advantages of using peat moss in your garden is that it is an environment-friendly, compostable resource. Rather than using peat moss in your home garden indirectly – if you purchase vegetables and flowers grown by others – you can use it to directly improve the quality of your soil. This is an intergenerational gift, which leaves the world a better place than it was before.

Downsides Of Peat Moss

Peat is the dark brown, decomposed remains of tree and plant matter that is found in many places, particularly in cold climates like Canada, Ireland, and Scotland. The processing of raw peat into peat moss is a straightforward process, involving little more than piling up the peat in containers and waiting for it to dry out, and the same process makes it useful. Generally considered a form of humus, peat moss serves as a valuable source of plant nutrients.

But importing and storing peat do present some environmental concerns. After all, peatland habitats support a variety of plants and animals, and the bogs in which peat is often found are sensitive ecosystems. In addition, a lot of the peat we use comes from Canada, and Canadian peat bogs have been experiencing problems of their own.

One of the chief concerns in Canada’s peatlands has been the spread of invasive plants like sphagnum moss and cattail. As the peatland bogs dry out, these plants move in, replacing native vegetation with their own extensive root systems. And while peatlands still cover an estimated 15 percent of Finland, peat extraction accounted for 15 percent of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2000, according to the Finnish Peat Society.

How to Use Peat Moss in the Garden

If you are a home gardener, you may occasionally use peat moss in your garden. But, what is it? How much does it cost? What types are there? Do I have to buy it at a garden center or would I be better off to buy it online? And what does it do?

First off, there is sphagnum peat moss and non-sphagnum peat-based products such as coir, which is made from the inner fibrous layers of the coconut husk.

Sphagnum peats is derived from the peat moss. Interestingly, the word sphagnum is Arabic in origin.

Because of its total organic content, it is dark brown to black in color. It has a fibrous texture and appealing aroma and works as a great soil amendment.

With a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, it is slightly acidic and that’s a good thing. As a soil amendment it’s superior to all others.

When mixed with composted organic enrichment, it provides a tremendous boost to the health and productivity of your garden. So why wouldn’t you use it?

If you live in an area where the ground freezes solid, you can use submerged peat as a substitute for slow-release fertilizers.


Peat Moss is the decomposed remains of moss. In its full form, moss looks like a pile of green rocks. It is very dense and absorbs water like a sponge.

Also, peat moss holds nutrients like a magnet. When added to garden soil, it attracts and holds nutrients that otherwise would have been wasted.

Peat Moss is a must-have garden item. It works to retain moisture, regulate drainage, and increase oxygen in soil. Peat moss is the perfect item to use when planting because it provides a good growing medium for all sorts of plants and trees. It creates air pockets, which are good for seed germination. Also, it has a neutral pH, and contains no salt. These properties make it a natural alternative to chemical-based fertilizers and garden boosters.

If your soil is healthy, you can use peat moss for a variety of gardening projects. Peat moss can be used in your yard to improve water retention, drainage, and aeration. If used in your garden, peat moss can be used as a mulch around trees and other plants. If used in your compost pile, peat moss will help break down other materials. It can also be used as a potting medium for growing plants. Peat moss can be used to pot flowers, seeds, young plants, and starter plants.

As A Soil Amendment

Many gardeners are familiar with the use of peat moss as a soil amendment for keeping soil light and providing extra water retention. But there are plenty of other uses for peat moss in the garden that are less often heard.

Although pros and experts recommend against using peat moss in gardens especially where food is grown, it still a popular choice among many gardeners.

If you have a garden and are considering using peat moss, here are some alternative uses of peat or sphagnum moss in the garden you may not have heard of.

As Mulch for Flower Beds.

One of the most popular uses of peat is as a mulch for gardens and flower beds. Mulching with peat helps to prevent nitrogen loss and soil erosion, and is a natural way to suppress weeds.

Be aware that although the organic matter in peat moss can add nitrogen to the soil, some people believe it absorbs nutrients from the soil. This is only the case if you use fresh peat moss, as it completely rots down when it's fully composted.

Mulch with peat moss also helps to filter out soil borne diseases and pests. These pollutants are bound to the surface of the peat moss and carried in the runoff water.

As a Light and Moisture Retaining Mulch.

As A Seed Starter

It is a proven fact that sowing seeds in peat moss can have 2 or 3 times more results than using soil. This is because it is basically free from weed seeds and diseases. Using a peat moss for seed starters can also save you a lot of money because you can buy it in large volumes. You only need to get as much as you need and not the whole package. You can also dehydrate it and make it store for longer if you do not need it for a long time.

For you to check the health status of your seeds, you need to have them sown about 1 inch apart from each other. Also, if you have a barrel, it can be a good option to use it as seed starters. Using peat moss is actually a great alternative, especially if you want your seeds to make it.

Also, if you are planning to plant your homegrown garden in the yard, peat moss is just what you need. This is because it will be a great medium to grow your plants like tomatoes, parsley, melons, squash, and others. You may add vermiculite or perlite into it to improve its aeration. You can even get expensive packets of seeds just to sow them into the peat moss.

Its high water retention capacity and great air circulation will favor the roots development of your plants.

Where To Buy Peat Moss

So you live in a temperate area and want to try your hand at gardening. Maybe you’ve already got a plot in the backyard or a few pots scattered throughout the house. Regardless of where you live, you probably think about gardening at one point or another.

Perhaps you’re having fun just growing what you can in the backyard. Or you may be into a more serious gardening project such as growing rare or endangered plants. But even if you’re growing something as common as tomatoes, there are ways to add some real flair to your garden that will set it apart from the other people’s.

In fact, one of the ways to do just that is to mix a little bit of peat moss with some soil. Peat is a type of soil that comes from the decomposition of certain mosses. It is formed when other materials such as twigs and leaves decompose, creating a rich habitat for a variety of mosses.

The result of this is a soil-loam-substance that is full of nutrients and minerals. It is fairly light weight and absorbs water quickly. It also adds a lot of texture and volume to the area you put it in.

There are several things you can do with peat moss. The first is to mix it with soil. The second is to create a mound placed on the ground.

Environmental Concerns Of Peat Moss

In the past, it was a popular belief that peat moss could help to lower the pH level in the soil. This theory has never been proven as research showed that there was no difference in the pH of peat moss. Many gardeners have turned to peat moss to improve garden soil conditions. However, gardeners should not have any expectations of peat moss being accepted as a regular product for the home garden.

Because peat moss is a material that is devoid in nitrogen, you can only use it in areas where the plants are capable of healthy root development without this nutrient. The growth rate of a plant may be hampered by using peat moss in the soil. As a result, many professional nurseries are known to avoid the use of peat moss. Only those that have the money to use special products are willing to pay for the high cost of peat moss.

In more recent years, the use of peat moss in the environment has gotten more attention. In areas like Florida, the results of the failure of plants to survive when moisture is a concern have been blamed on the use of peat moss. If you happen to have a peat moss bog nearby, you may want to consider that it can pose a serious environmental hazard. Peat bogs – swamps – appear to be an intriguing habitat, however, they are among the most severe emitters of greenhouse gases.

Peat Moss Alternatives

Peat mosses are an essential and renewable resource to any compound. Made from plants that grow in bogs, peat mosses are used to bring soil pH up or to increase the moisture retention of the soil. The most recognized species of peat is Sphagnum peat moss, which is sold either in bales or in bags.

Because of its harsh growing conditions, peat moss doesn’t decompose easily. Instead, it absorbs some of the water from the surrounding environment, becoming a spongy, compact mass that is hard to break apart. Just think of a flower pot that has absorbed too much water and you’ll get the picture.

Just as a flower pot does, peat moss can hold excess water in the ground. It will also help loosen the soil, if you combine it with compost, or other organic matter.

Your soil will need to have the right pH, moisture content, and drainage for peat moss to work well.

It’s true that you can purchase peat moss to re-grow a bog, but it’s considered environmentally unfriendly to get the plant material from a bog. Instead, only buy and use peat that has been harvested responsibly. Luckily, most home and garden centers sell responsibly harvested peat moss.

Is Peat Moss Right For You?

Peat is a type of decayed vegetation that has been processed to have many uses. Whether it’s for gardening or construction, peat has many uses. One form of peat moss is eco-friendly and extremely versatile. That kind of peat moss is called “sphagnum peat moss.”

Sphagnum peat moss grows in wetlands. It can also be harvested from shallow, boggy marshes and other environments. This moss is known for its water-retaining abilities. It can hold up to eight times its weight in water. It makes an excellent soil amendment for planting. Many gardeners have used sphagnum peat moss as a composting and mulching material.

Sphagnum peat moss is also an excellent material for pond-building. It has many uses in the garden and landscaping industry. It’s been used for decades in commercial greenhouse benches and as landscape mulch.