If you are an ardent gardener, you probably have come across the term peat moss several times. Actually, you may have also used it and experienced its benefits. Peat moss is one remarkable growing medium with an uncanny ability to hold on to nutrients and manage water efficiently. And what’s more, this growing medium enhances the texture of the soil making it suitable for your favorite plants – we all want the best for our favorites.
In the following write up, we attempt to expound more on peat moss so you can have vital information to succeed as a gardener.
So, what is this Peat Moss?
This a fibrous substance that forms when moss and other living organisms decompose within peat bogs. Yes, this sounds much like your compost peat where you throw vegetable remains and other kitchen stuff but don’t get confused, they are different from each other.
With peat moss, the main ingredient is moss – I guess the title gives that away. Also, the decomposition process happens in the absence of air. The importance of this vacuum is to slow down the rate of decomposition. Actually, it takes a couple of millennia for sphagnum peat moss to form – that’s a very long time.
And because it takes so much time to form, peat moss is not thought as renewable – figures! There has been a continuing controversy surrounding peat moss mining. Environmentalists contend that the process of extraction gives out a considerable amount of carbon. There have been claims that the bogs continue to produce carbon long after the mining process has completed.
Because of such concerns, the environmental agency in Britain seeks to eliminate its use by 2020 among hobby gardeners.
And how do you Use Peat Moss?
One of the most common uses for peat moss is as a potting medium. It is also used as a soil amendment for that little backyard garden you’ve got. Peat moss is basically acidic and only appropriate for those plants that are okay with an acidic PH such as camellias.
If your plants are the alkaline lovers, then you should stick with the ordinary compost. The good thing about peat moss is that it does not contain weed seeds or microorganisms that you may typically find in natural compost.
One benefit of peat moss worth highlighting is its ability to retain materials. When you use the medium in your garden, it will keep water and nutrients better than the soil. This means reduced watering effort and application of fertilizer.
Peat moss is one of the most sterile mediums as it comes free of any pathogens, weed seeds or insects. Its acidic nature makes it very hard for bacteria and fungi to thrive within – a good thing, of course. For more clarity, sphagnum moss was used in world war one for its absorbent and sterile nature. This makes it ideal for potting mixes and starting seedlings.
It is also a springy substance and remains so for a long time. The benefit of this is that plants grow easily without problems associated with compaction such as slow rehydration. This explains why some farmers love it so much.
Peat moss is a bit acidic in nature, and plants like blueberries stand to benefit significantly. In other words, the medium is perfect for plants that are acid lovers.
Despite being comparable to compost in a number of ways, peat moss is not that fertile. You cannot rely on it solely for plant growth. However, that does not mean that it is useless entirely in that aspect. It has some beneficial microorganisms – the keyword here is ‘some’ –, minerals and some nutrients. Peat most will not also ruin the nutrient composition and fertility of the soil in any way.
You now know that peat moss is acidic. This property is great for some plants that are okay with this PH level but not so good for those that are alkaline lovers. This may prove problematic, especially when you have no idea whether the majority of your plants are acid lovers or not.
Peat moss does not come cheap, and you know why. This can really prove a challenge if you are looking for large amounts of it. But you can mix it with soil in an appropriate quantity. Avoid using peat moss alone.
Environmental concerns are another factor that worries farmers. Peat moss is nonrenewable by nature, and its mining is a sort of fear for environmentalists as it is related to greenhouse gas emission. When Peatlands catch fire, a significant amount of carbon is emitted – this happened in Indonesia in 2015.
How you Use Peat Moss
- The first standard use of peat moss is as a soil amendment. Wet the medium before mixing it with soil at the ratio of 2:1. Two measures of dirt with one of peat moss. Then distribute it evenly throughout your garden to ensure all your plants will benefit.
- You can also use peat moss in a soilless seed mix for potting purposes. However, you may need to add lime in small amounts to lower the PH level. Depending on preference, you can mix vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and fertilizer in equal measure. You are also free to experiment with various mixes to see which works best for you.
The Peat Moss Alternatives
As discussed above, peat moss is quite expensive, and there are issues regarding its environmental impact – most farmers are in support of less pollution and going green. If that is the case for you, then you are always free to use compost – nothing wrong with it, anyway. You can still make compost cheaply in your backyard without any harm to the environment.
Apart from compost, there is coconut fiber which has grown in popularity over the last two decades. The reason why coconut coir is a favored alternative is that it has the same porosity and water holding capacity as peat moss.
There is also pine bark that can easily replace peat moss in a way. This alternative is just pine bark that has been shredded and composted.