Sphagnum peat moss first became available to gardeners as a soil amendment in the early 1900s. Since that time, the discovery revolutionized the way we grow plants.
Sphagnum moss mostly came from Canada. The country’s peatlands produces about 40,000 hectares of Canadian sphagnum peat moss with 90% of it getting imported for US gardens.
What is peat moss?
Peat moss, also known as a dead fibrous material of sphagnum species, forms when moss and other living materials become decomposed in peat bogs. It takes thousands of years for peat deposits to form.
Peat undergoes a slow, process that could take hundreds to thousands of years and is a non-renewable resource despite the regulation of mining and the available reserves in peat bogs for harvest being 0.02 percent.
Harvesting of peat comes from natural bogs, then processed and sold by various companies. Peat contains organic material in different stages of decomposition.
NOTE: Since peat moss is a non-renewable resource the horticultural community is beginning to look at a renewable resource to supplement the demand of peat. This renewable resource is coco coir or coconut fiber. Currently, it looks to hold all the same qualities and nutrients as peat.
For home gardeners, peat sphagnum moss makes one of the most convenient sources of organic matter, as it does not require any further composting. It holds an excellent water-holding capacity allowing gardeners the ability to manage water efficiently and keep the nutrients that leak out.
As a soil conditioner with many nutrients involved, it improves the texture and consistency of the soil. Gardening centers sell Sphagnum moss in tightly packed cubic foot bales primarily for use as a component in potting soil and as soil amendment. The Canadian peat moss that came from remote bogs appears as the most popular.
What Is Peat Moss Used For?
Gardeners use peat moss mainly as a soil conditioner for working into garden beds and lawns or as an organic ingredient in potting mix. It contains an acidic pH, a level perfect for plants like camellias and blueberries.
As it does not compact or break down, one application will last for several years. On the other hand, natural compost needs renewal every year.
Peat moss does not contain harmful microorganisms which thrive in poorly processed compost. Due to this, peat makes a good choice for most plants.
You can use peat for seed starting, making potting mixes and improving your raised garden bed soil. For larger projects, use compost as a cheaper option. The peat products mainly comes from Canada making it expensive when used in large quantity.
Peat moss makes one of the materials to create “peat pots” – biodegradable pots. Other materials include shredded and firmly compressed wood fibers.
Peat pots like these provide a convenient way for starting seeds and seedlings. Moreover, they allow you to pot and plant when young seedlings are ready for transplanting. This greatly reduces stress and trauma to the plant and roots.
Use peat moss in vegetable gardens, especially when growing plants with tender skin and bear juicy fruits such as tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries. This dead fibrous material holds water well giving more supply to the roots of juice-bearing plants. Besides, these acidic soil loving plants can benefit from the low pH of peat moss.
Peat moss holds water more than compost. Due to this, it benefits gardeners in a dry dirt or rocky soil which dries out quickly. Growers who plant in this type of soil can use peat moss to maximize output from their land.
The mixture of peat moss in the garden also protects against weeds and pathogens. These agents frequently ruin a vegetable garden.
Conditioning The Soil With Peat Bog Material
Cornell University recommends amending of garden soil with one-third peat moss. In the vegetable garden, evenly distribute the peat into the soil around 12 inches deep. You might turn garden compost into the soil alongside the peat moss.
The natural acidic property of peat moss appears useful in the inter mountain areas of the western United States. The same goes in regions where soils show as alkaline in nature. In an alkaline soil, adding peat moss results to a great advantage for your garden.
Dried peat moss also appears in the production of some surgical dressings and lamp wicks. It also improves water drainage in clay soil. Also, the dried peat helps the clean sandy soil hold more water.
How To Properly Use Peat Moss
Here’s how to use peat moss.
Although known as a good fertilizer for many plants, gardeners need to exercise caution. Too much of this product may impact the growth of plants. Moreover, some plants react badly to some properties of peat moss.
Avoid using it on non-acidic plants due to its acidic properties. Using the peat bog product as mulch around non-acidic loving plants puts them under overwhelming stress. Also, it carries the tendency to form surface cracks when it dries out.
Use peat moss in gardens with loose soil. Consequently, this will increase the water holding capacity.
Some peat producers use chemicals to make it water absorbing. This post a threat to your plants. Check the materials used in the label when purchasing or search for an organic peat moss.
Although it can hold great moisture, the material slowly absorbs water when completely dry. Furthermore, wet the peat soil thoroughly before using it to condition the soil.
After lifting the tubers of tender plants for winter, bury them in a tray of dry peat.
This gardening step helps the soil to absorb water, letting tubers dry and preventing the growth of fungi causing root diseases and problems.