Let’s Not Be Mindless About….Peat Moss

Peat Moss? Can she really be assailing peat moss? What’s wrong with that??

First of all, it’s not sustainable. Do you know where it comes from? It comes from something called peat bogs. These are primarily found in Canada and the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Council would have us believe that just a tiny fragment of what is sold every year is what’s available to be harvested.

That may very well be. But it’s sort of like any other resource: coal, oil, natural gas, etc. There is a finite amount of it and it will be used up. (Although not according to the arguments made by the CSPC–you can read all about it in their 45 page document here.)

Even if more peat accumulates per year than can possibly be harvested (a fact that my Canadian friends tell me is not correct), there’s just no reason to use peat moss in many circumstances and here’s why:

1. It’s extremely hard to re-wet once it dries out. Think about a house plant, which is still quite often planted in a peat based soil. Once it’s very dry and you water, what happens? All the water runs straight out the bottom instead of being absorbed, right? Because very dry peat does not absorb water. Now think about that same stuff in your garden. Not good, particularly in our drought situations. Why would you use that stuff?

2. Many of us have acidic soil. Peat is acidic by nature. Why add an acid based amendment to your already acidic soil?

3. And finally, there are just way better things to add that will do better things for your garden. Compost is far more beneficial and will enrich the garden no matter what your soil type or acidity.

So please–they next time you are at the garden center and you see a great big bale of peat moss, stop to think about your conditions. Perhaps you’d be better off with some compost instead.

4 thoughts on “Let’s Not Be Mindless About….Peat Moss

  1. michele March 18, 2014 / 2:29 pm

    I agree, totally, about NOT using a finite resource like peat. However, I’m not comfortable with bags labeled compost which do not identify the source, contents or possible contaminants. Organic compost might be ideal, but is either unavailable or cost-prohibitive where I garden. I’m trying to research coconut coir, which is less costly, re -wets well, & is a renewable source (actually uses a by-product of the industry), though I’m not sure about its ph. Any thoughts about this product??

  2. gardendaze March 18, 2014 / 3:04 pm

    I’ve used coconut coir for almost 20 years and have had no issues with it at all. I do not know the pH but since I garden at a ridiculously low pH (in the low 3s) I know it isn’t as acidic as peat so I don’t worry about that. I also know it doesn’t have the re-wetting issues that peat does. At of course, it is much easier to get home since it comes in those nice little bricks.

    I have no trouble finding all sorts of organic compost that indeed list all the contents on the bag but I have seen bags that just say “compost” so I know what you mean. I might be suspect of those myself.

  3. michele March 18, 2014 / 3:33 pm

    I’ve just begun using the coir & I’ve liked its performance, renewability & price very much. It’s reassuring to know you have had success with it over a long period. I agree about the portability & the storability! Thanks so much for the info, your articles are always interesting & helpful!

  4. gardendaze March 18, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    Since I gave you my first answer, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think where I first started using coir. I know it wasn’t in the garden initially. I think I first encountered it in orchids, believe it or not. And I had bought tons of the stuff and had a bunch left over so I experimented one spring and found it worked great! And I’ve used it ever since.

    When I planted my raised beds, I used that organic compost I mentioned, coir, and organic soil. That first year I had parsley with leaves the size of my hands. They were so big it was scary! I didn’t even get any butterflies because they didn’t recognize the parsley.

    So that’s how good the coir is.


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