What is Peat Moss Anyway?


by Stephanie Loesch June 06, 2017

 A Typical Bag of Potting Soil Contains Peat- Why?     

Today, many people consider different options when deciding to garden and fertilize their plants. One common trend considered when gardening is the use of peat moss. What exactly is peat moss you may ask? Peat moss, or Sphagnum, is a garden additive in which is a dead, fibrous material made up of decomposed living material such as moss. The fertilizer plays a large role in potting soils and seed starting mediums. The process to form peat moss takes over a few thousand years and because it takes so long for even a thin layer of peat moss to grow, it is not even considered a renewable resource.

            You might be wondering why exactly people use peat moss. The material does offer a few advantages to gardeners. One of the advantages of using peat moss is its ability to decompose at a very slow rate compared to other garden additives. Additionally, peat moss has the ability to hold large amounts of moisture because of its ability to resist compacting. That being said, it does not naturally retain water and requires wetting agents. This material is also sterile, meaning there are no added harmful chemicals. However, the quality and cleanliness of each amount of peat moss is very much up to where it is obtained and by the manufacturers who produce products with it.

            When determining which types of plants you want to use with peat moss, go for the plants that love acid like azaleas or blueberries. The reason for this is because peat moss has an acidic pH. There are also alkaline-loving plants that do not thrive when surrounded by an acidic material. This means many different vegetables like potatoes and carrots, in addition to many flowers such as daisies, prefer a more neutral pH in the soil.

            The biggest concern gardeners have when using peat moss is the environmental impact it has. Peatlands, specifically, are made up of decomposed moss in which is at least 16 inches in depth. When mining the areas to obtain the peat moss, a network of drainage drains and settling basins are dug into the ground in order to drain the water within them, causing them to die. The serious problem with this is that these peatlands are ecosystems in which are home to a plethora of rare wildlife. Their homes are being destroyed due to the use of peat moss. Peatlands are also known for being natural water purifiers, keeping watersheds clean and allowing people to be able to safely drink the water surrounding them. They purify about 10% of the global freshwater resources.(1) While purifying the water, peatlands also cause flood prevention, which is important in saving ecosystems as well.

            Another major disadvantage of removing peatlands is the release of carbon dioxide back into the air once peat mosses start to decompose due to being drained. Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, which is potent to the environment. Because of this result, there have been initiatives set up to save the peatlands, since they are the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock, in order to prevent potent gas releases into the atmosphere. (2) These sustainability goals to ensure the safety of peatlands will occur both globally and nationally. Speaking of globally, the UK has recently started an initiative to partner with environmental charities and organizations in order to secure the restoration as well as the long-term conservation of peatlands. (3) The need for initiatives such as the preservation of peatlands is necessary, as many environmental problems arise from draining and destroying them. At PittMoss, we hope to raise awareness around the use of peat and providing sustainable alternatives for gardeners.

Check out our blog peat vs. pittmoss for a quick rundown of the differences between the two products.

 

1) http://www.life.ca/naturallife/0712/asknlpeat.html

2) http://www.globalpeatlands.org/

3) http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/peatland-gateway/uk




Stephanie Loesch
Stephanie Loesch

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