Peat Moss The Benefits and Disadvantages

Peat moss is likely to be discussed by gardeners. The use of peat moss in gardening can be very beneficial to your plants, so it is important to know what it is, how it works, and how to use it effectively. Peat moss is used for many purposes, such as improving soil, starting seeds, amending soil, and much more. You can make your garden more productive with peat moss. However is it environmentally friendly to use?

Peat Moss Bog

Peat Moss The Basics Explained

What is peat moss? Peat moss is composed of decomposed organic material, such as decomposed sphagnum moss and other organic materials which can be found in marshes and bogs. Sphagnum moss, as well as other organic materials decomposing after years of decay, forms a characteristic black, fibrous, compact material as a result of decomposition. Essentially, this is a natural occurring process, but there is also the option to make your own peat moss for use in your garden.

Compost and peat moss have some similarities. Air helps organic matter decompose, which is why compost is made up of decomposed organic matter. The absence of air makes peat moss possible. Decomposition takes place very slowly but results in a more homogenous material. Due to its absorbent properties, peat moss is an ideal material to use in a variety of garden applications, including creating fertile soil and promoting faster plant growth.

The Benefits of Peat Moss

Gardeners who want to make their plants thrive can reap numerous advantages and benefits from peat moss. Gardeners need it for a number of critical reasons, such as its ability to absorb moisture, sterility, acidic pH content, compaction prevention property, and many others.

Peat moss has the following benefits:

  • Peat moss is an extraordinarily absorbent material. In comparison with other types of soil, it is much better at retaining water. Incorporate it into your garden soil for great results.
  • It is a sterile medium. You will benefit greatly from the use of peat moss as it provides a sterile medium for you to plant and grow your plants in. There is no harmful chemical, weed seed or anything else you don’t want to be in the soil where your plants are growing. For this reason, peat moss is an ideal medium for starting plants, especially for those that are tender, fragile, and need lots of care. In this sense, it is a good idea to mix peat moss into any starting mix that you’re using.
  • Plants that like acidic soil will benefit from peat moss, as it is slightly acidic. You may be considering growing plants such as camellias and blueberries, they require soil  that is slightly acidic. In order for your plants that prefer acidic soil to thrive, you should mix a little bit of peat moss into the soil.
  • Peat moss doesn’t really compact, it’s crucial not to compact soil, since compaction decreases its usefulness. Water is not absorbed properly by compacted soil, so it provides poor growing conditions for any plants. The advantage of peat moss is that it can be easily rehydrated, and even a single application can prevent compaction of the soil.
Peat Moss being harvested

The Disadvantages of Peat Moss

The disadvantages of peat moss are, however, important to understand. It is important to be aware of these drawbacks in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to use peat moss in your garden.

Here are the main problems with peat moss:

  • Peat moss is environmentally harmful because it is unsustainable when not managed properly. Basically, peat moss needs to be mined, which means that the top layer of living sphagnum moss must be scraped off. It is important to note that the sphagnum peat bog set above these mines is in fact a habitat for plants such as sundews, butterworts and bog rosemary, as well as rare and endangered animals such as dragonflies, frogs and birds, along with living mosses. In spite of manufacturers’ claims that bogs can be easily restored, the delicate community that inhabits bogs cannot be reestablished in a short period of time. It takes hundreds to thousands of years for peat moss to form, regardless of its renewable status.
  • In spite of the fact that peat moss is organic, it can actually be quite infertile. As a result of this, it does not provide the plants with the nutrients they need to grow. There are some nutrients, minerals, and microorganisms in peat moss, so that’s something. As a result, peat moss won’t destroy your soil’s fertility. If you want your plants to grow strong and healthy, you will likely need more than peat moss.
  • Acidic pH features. Peat moss’ acidic properties can be great for some plants, but they can also be a challenge for plants that prefer an alkaline environment. Compost is a better choice if you’re growing plants that thrive in alkaline soil.
  • There is a high cost associated with peat moss. Especially if you need a lot of it. Consider this before using peat moss. It may be possible to reduce the cost a bit by mixing it with other mediums, but be aware that it is possible to use too much peat moss.

An Alternative to Peat Moss

Coconut coir can also be used as a soil supplement. It is made from the fibres of the coconut shell.

Coconut Coir as an alternative to peat moss
Coconut Coir as an alternative to peat moss

Coconut coir can actually be purchased by itself as a stand-alone product or in gardening soil mixes along with other ingredients, such as peat, perlite, or vermiculite.

By virtue of the fact that it was originally considered a waste by the coconut industry, and is a by-product of existing coconut harvesting, it is a very eco-friendly alternative to peat. As well as being a useful water-absorbent, it can also help reduce soil density, allowing water to drain rapidly.

In recent years, it has become more and more popular among hydroponic growers and worm farmers alike.