QUESTION: What is peat moss made of? Moss sounds like it comes from a creek or something. – Arthur M
ANSWER: I’m so glad you asked! Peat moss is an exciting and controversial topic in gardening. Let’s begin with the basics: what is peat moss made of and where does it come from?
Peat moss is essentially layers of partially decomposed plants such as moss or grass. These plants have been in an area that has an excessive amount of water yet lacks oxygen. These factors can stall the process of decay.
This product is typically found in bogs and swampy areas and can take centuries to form. Hence, where the controversy comes into play.
When peat moss is harvested, the harvester must drain the top layers of water in the swamp or bog. At this point, vegetation is exposed and dried out so the harvester can perform the act of harvesting peat moss. This act is also known as scraping.
This becomes a problem for multiple reasons. First, when the bogs are scraped, the harvesters are removing homes where wildlife and plants live.
The other drawback is it takes time for the peat moss to form again. It took hundreds of years for the peat moss currently being harvested to form.
Scientists are finding that it can take between five and twenty years for peat bogs to reach an eco-balance after harvest.
It also takes fifteen to twenty-five years for one inch of peat to form. For this reason, many countries are outlawing the use of this product.
However, we aren’t here to tell you where to ethically stand. Therefore, you should look at these facts and decide for yourself whether peat should be an included product in your garden or not.
Should you choose to avoid the use of peat moss, there are other products that work similarly. These are your options:
1. Coconut Coir
If you’re concerned about the environment and want to avoid peat moss for personal convictions, you’ll love coconut coir.
This product was once a wasted by-product of coconut harvesting. However, it’s been discovered that coconut coir is great for improving soil drainage, absorbing water, and making the soil lighter.
Compost is an excellent way to take old plants, grass, leaves, and other biodegradable items and use them in your garden. The drawback is this process takes time.
However, if you have the time to make compost, it has many benefits. Compost will help your soil drain and become fluffier.
Vermiculite is a product formed from aluminum iron magnesium silicates being heated at extremely high temperatures.
This forms a product that is soft and absorbent. Vermiculite is wonderful at holding both moisture and nutrients.
Perlite is frequently used interchangeably with vermiculite. However, they are different based upon what they’re formed out of. Perlite is made from volcanic rock.
It’s great for retaining moisture, holding nutrients, aerating your soil, and helping the soil drain better. When looking for something eco-friendly to improve your soil, perlite could be for you.
5. Loose Items Around Your Property
The final options you may use to replace peat moss are random items you might be able to collect around or near your home. You can use sand, leaves, and mulch.
These items are great for helping your soil drain better and also for aerating the soil. When searching for items to replace peat moss, these could be great options.
The final thing I’d like to discuss with you to thoroughly inform you about peat moss is don’t confuse this moss with sphagnum moss.
Sphagnum moss is usually sold as a living plant. It’s typically the top layer of window boxes and planters, is used to retain moisture, and is also used for adding a finished look to a container garden.
Peat moss, as previously discussed, is made of decayed organic products. Take all of this information into consideration when picking which products you should use in your garden.
Hopefully, you better understand what peat moss is, what it does, where it comes from, and what you can replace it with (should you choose to do so).