Even if you are a beginner gardener, the chances that you have come across mixing peat moss with soil is quite high. This is thanks to the wide variety of applications and advantages it brings to the garden.
Unfortunately, the reality is that using peat moss comes with some confusion, especially for beginners. So, I have done some digging, and here, I will provide a guide to mixing peat moss with soil. This way, you can have a productive experience.
What is Peat Moss?
Just before start mixing peat moss with soil, you might just wonder what peat moss is all about. It is common for you to find a reference to a dark brown matter.
However, while this is a product, this is far from the material's origin. In fact, you would be limiting your options if you saw peat moss as just this brown particulate.
So, what exactly am I talking about? Let us take a close look at its origin. What we now recognize as peat moss first entered the market around the twentieth century.
It came as a dry, brown particulate that you could purchase in sphagnum peat moss bags. However, this product was quite different from the original plant.
Precisely, peat moss represents the decomposed corpse of sphagnum moss, including other living organisms. They then create a dead material – fibrous – over time in various peat bogs. Typically, they form without air, unlike compost.
There is a slow decomposition that forms a homogeneous substance that's highly absorbent. In turn, this ensures that peat moss can function as your seed starter and soil builder.
Pros and Cons of Mixing Peat Moss with Soil
Pros of Using Peat Moss
Now that you have got more information about peat moss, you are more interested. So, you are wondering what peat moss brings to the table.
The great news is that this organic material comes with various benefits for your garden. So, are you looking to enjoy these benefits? Here is what to expect.
1. High Absorbency
One thing that sets peat moss apart is its high capacity to absorb water. It can retain water far better than your average soil.
When you mix it with your soil, it significantly increases the water retention rate of your soil. This ensures that your plant can enjoy better access to water for improved growth.
The reality is this, with peat moss, you can avoid waterlogged soil. In case you didn't know, waterlogged soil means your plant is more susceptible to rots.
This can then damage your plant roots, making growth difficult. However, with peat moss, you get a soil that guarantees a natural release of water. This then ensures that your soul is not soggy or dry.
2. It Prevents Compaction
Another advantage that comes with peat moss is the fact that it doesn't compact. This is unlike various other organic materials that are known to be compact.
Unfortunately, soil compaction damages your garden and limits your plant's growth. This is because it also reduces the water absorption of your soil.
It also reduces your soil and plants' access to oxygen. However, with peat moss, this is not the case. Peat moss retains its springy nature when wet. It also rehydrates quite easily, allowing your plant to enjoy adequate water.
Even more, you can enjoy the application of peat moss for years.
3. Sterile Planting Medium
Using peat moss means that you are using a sterile medium for planting your favorite vegetables. Your planting medium doesn't contain various harmful pathogens and weed seeds that can affect your planting medium.
Even more, when combined with its high absorbency, it becomes a great option if you are looking to start seeds. You can be sure to provide strength and nutrients to your seeds while avoiding damaging pathogens.
4. Nutrient Retention
One issue with soils that loses water is the loss of nutrients alongside the water. In turn, this leaves your plant with fewer nutrients to maximize its growth. However, with peat moss, you can avoid this.
Increasing the water retention of your soil ensures that nutrients from insects and works remain within your soil. This is also the case with your fertilizers. In turn, this ensures that you get better fruits from healthier fruits.
5. It is Slightly Acidic
One significant feature of peat moss is that it is quite acidic. In turn, it ensures that your acid-loving vegetables and plants can enjoy better growth.
For instance, plants like camellias and blueberries grow better when you apply peat moss. However, keep in mind that some plants require basic or neutral pHs.
In such cases, the addition of loads of peat moss might not be the best idea. Regardless, if you must, you will need additional alkaline amendments.
Cons of Using Sphagnum Moss
The reality is that while peat moss comes with various advantages, it is not without its issues. As such, you will need to put in mind that you will experience some challenges with peat moss.
So, what are these downsides?
1. It is Expensive
Perhaps the first issue you will experience with the use of peat moss is that it is expensive. While you will get varying prices, the reality is that you will spend a considerable amount on purchasing peat moss.
This becomes even significant where you purchase large quantities.
While peat moss brings considerable advantages to your water needs, this is not the same for your nutrient needs. This is because peat moss possesses quite a low nutrient content.
Yes, while there are some advantageous microorganisms, the nutrient value is not high. As such, you will usually need additional nutrients to provide the best possible environment for your plant.
We always add some good compost and some worm tea to ours before adding to our garden. However, keep in mind that the geographical origin of your peat moss can affect their nutrient content.
3. Not Suitable to Alkaline-Loving Plants
We already mentioned how peat moss brings so many benefits to acid-loving vegetables. Well, this can also be a disadvantage in a case where you have an alkaline-loving plant.
Typically, peat moss is not suitable for general use. It would be best to opt for compost. It comes with a neutral and even pH.
Unfortunately, as advantageous as peat moss is, it remains unsustainable. This is because it takes quite some time to grow peat moss, taking multiple millennia.
Also, it brings loads of environmental factors that make it reasonable to opt for its alternatives. For instance, mining peat moss represents a carbon-intensive activity.
Even more, the removal of peat releases significant amounts of compounds such as carbon dioxide into your environment. It then limits the availability of carbon sinks.
In time, overreliance on the production of peat moss can result in a loss of its diversity. Even more, it contributes to climate change. As such, its excessive use becomes quite disturbing.
How to Use Peat Moss as a Soil Amendment?
One use where you will find peat moss relevant is for your soil amendment. This is quite useful where you have dry and sandy soil. In this case, your soil might have an issue with moisture retainment and drainage. This is where peat moss comes in.
It prevents compaction and improves drainage in your wet and dry soil. However, using it can be quite tricky without the right information. Regardless, we have got you covered. Here is how to use peat moss as a soil amendment.
Ask Yourself If Peat Moss Is for You
When you consider the benefits and downsides of peat moss, you realize that using it is a great idea. However, before jumping into a soil amendment with peat moss, you need to decide if it is for you.
Typically, this will involve a consideration of the following factors.
- What do I want to use the peat moss for?
- Can I afford to purchase peat moss?
- Can I assess alternatives options to peat moss?
- What is the pH that my plant requires?
- Is my soil having trouble retaining moisture?
Now, when you consider these questions, you can decide if you want to use peat moss. If you do get a positive answer, then you can proceed to the next stage.
Measure the Soil's pH
The next thing you want to do is measure and adjust the pH of your soil. And, of course, what you intend to grow. This is important because peat moss is acidic.
So, it is best suited for acid-loving crops and plants. Or alkaline and neutral soil. It is simple; you don't want to use a peat moss with a plant that requires less alkalinity in the soil.
Pre-wet the Peat Moss
The next step is to pre-wet the peat moss thoroughly. Remember that this is very important when using peat moss. This is because a dry pet moss typically repels water making it unsuitable for your soil.
So, you want to give it some water before getting it into your soil. So, get some peat moss and pour some water. Then, stir it while letting it soak thoroughly for a while.
You can add more water if it is not fully soaked. Stir properly during this stage. Now, to ensure that it is wet enough, place some peat moss in your hand and squeeze it. It is wet enough where you get some drops of water.
However, keep in mind that it should not produce more than a few drops of water. If it does, it is too wet, and you will need to add more peat moss.
Peat Moss Application
The next stage is to apply the peat moss for your soil amendment. Note that the peat moss in question is the pre-wet peat moss.
Now, here is what you need to keep in mind.
- Apply the peat moss as a 2 to 3 inches layer inside your garden. You can also apply it using a 2 to 1 ratio.
In such a case, you will have two soil parts and one moss part
- Then, incorporate the moss into your soil's top 12 inches. You can add other amendments. However, ensure that you evenly distribute them into the soil.
- If you've got a raised bed or container, use from 1/3 to 2/3 peat moss. However, ensure you mix with compost or potting soil.
Peat Moss FAQs
Is peat moss or compost better for seedlings?
Peat moss is useful for seedlings as a slightly acidic material which holds water well, which makes rooting easier. However, for most plants, the lack of nutrients in peat moss can affect their growth rate negatively.
The fact that peat moss is not just unsustainable but that its harvest is damaging does make compost a better go to seed starter material.
What are the best substitutes for peat moss?
If you’re uncomfortable with the negative environmental impact of peat moss, you’re likely wondering what the realistic alternatives are. By far the most sustainable way to create growing mediums at home is to make your own compost, but store-bought compost can be useful too.
Coir compost is a useful sustainable sterile material too. The disadvantage of coir is that it has fairly poor water retention, and doesn’t hold nutrients very well as a result. Compost or leaf mold are the best alternatives to peat moss.
Is peat moss being banned?
The USA has not yet announced plans to ban the sale of peat moss or peat compost, but manufacturers are doing their best to reduce their reliance on peat by providing alternatives in garden centers.
Most of Europe has begun phasing out peat, and its sale is due to be illegal from 2024.
Is peat moss a good fertilizer?
Peat moss doesn’t actually add nutrients. Peat, which is also farmed, and creates the ground on which sphagnum and peat bogs thrive and develop, is one of the most nutrient-rich natural materials on earth but takes millennia to create.
Peat moss has very few nutrients of its own, but is incredibly good at holding moisture, and retaining nutrients from compost and fertilizers, which is why it has been routinely used in potting mixes for most of modern history.
Is sphagnum moss the same as peat moss?
Sphagnum moss and peat moss are the same plants, but by the time you buy peat moss, it is compacted and has died back completely. As a by-product of the peat industry, it is largely unsustainable, but there are moves towards sustainable sphagnum moss.
Sphagnum moss can be bought dried, or fresh, and has the same effect if dried and mixed into compost as peat moss. Check packs for sustainability marks.
Wrapping Up Mixing Peat Moss with Soil
Using peat moss has now become quite a catch today. However, there is one thing you must keep in mind. And that is the fact that peat moss is not sustainable or renewable. You need to be careful with its use.
Various other sustainable alternatives exist that can perform the same function when it comes to less specialized gardening activities. You want to get those alternatives for such activities.
In turn, you can maximize the available peat moss for more important needs. Now you know the pros and cons of mixing peat moss with soil.