What Is Peat Moss? Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages (2023)

Peat moss is a peat-like substance that is used as an organic soil amendment. Peat moss has been used for centuries to help improve the quality of garden soils and keep them moist. It’s also often mixed with potting mix, or composted garden refuse to create a peaty soil blend suitable for planting pots and containers. But what exactly is peat moss? What are peat moss advantages over other types of soil amendments? And what should you know about peat’s disadvantages before using it in your own garden? Read on to find out!

What is peat or peat moss?

Peat moss is a peat-like substance consisting primarily of partially decayed vegetation. Peat moss is just one of the products harvested frompeat bogs.It forms in wet, boggy areas where living plants cannot grow and accumulate over centuries to create deposits harvested as peat moss for garden use.

Peat moss was used indoors or outdoors since ancient times by people around the world – it was even used in the 12th and 13th centuries as an energy source of ever-growing importance in Europe.

In the 1950s,sphagnum peat mossbecame widely used as a principal ingredient in the potting soils sold in the United States. Due to its antiseptic qualities, peat moss is also used as a dressing for wounds. There are peat-based products on the market that promise to work wonders to beautify skin or hair.

What is peat moss used for, and should it be used in a vegetable garden?

What Is Peat Moss? Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages (1)

Peat moss has many benefits that make it an excellent soil amendment, not just for landscapes but also for container gardens and indoor plants or houseplants. It is an essential component of most soilless potting mixes and seed startingmediums.

The benefits of peat moss are so great that it ranks among one of the best options for improving poor quality garden soil – even better than some types of composts!

Peat moss is highly effective for amending soil. It doesn’t contain harmful microorganisms orweed seedsthat you may find in poorly processed compost. At the same time, its lightweight helps reduce the strain on your back when you’re transporting potted plants from one place to another.

It also can neutralize the soil acidity or alkalinity of the soil without changing the garden’s soil pH balance.

(Video) Peat moss in garden or for plants - Uses, advantages and disadvantages

Adding peat moss can improve drainage (especially if mixed with sandy soil) because of peat moss’s ability to retain water – which are among peat moss advantages.

Pots dry out faster due to the air-filled gaps between peat particles, creating more aeration around roots. With its ability to hold water and absorb it into its structure during periods of rain or watering, it prevents moisture evaporation from your plants’ roots.

Gardeners like using peat’s sandy texture because peat moss helps keep the soil from becoming compacted, restricting water retention and air circulation. This property makes peat moss excellent at improving the aeration and texture of heavy clay soils. It is perfect for raised-bed gardening and as an effective soil amendment for vegetable gardening. For example, if you are growing carrot, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and more.

In addition, peats’ porous structure also provides an ideal environment for worm casting activity – one of the most vital contributors to a healthy garden ecosystem.

Don’t confuse it with sphagnum moss which is the living part of the sphagnum moss plant.

Keep in mind that peat moss has a very acidic pH level while sphagnum moss has a neutral pH level. Your growing plants pH level and soil will play an important role in determining whether sphagnum moss or peat moss is the better choice for your gardening purposes.

How Is Peat Moss Used?

What Is Peat Moss? Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages (2)

Peat moss helps to add nutrients and improve plant growth. However, it should only be used in moderation.

Peat doesn’t produce much nitrogen on its own.

(Video) What is Peat Moss and How to use it in your Garden

To properly use peat moss in your indoor garden, it should be mixed with other planting mediums like perlite, vermiculite, compost, or others. It shouldn’t make up more than 20% of your total fertilizer needs.

You should know that using peat moss will cause drainage problems for indoor gardens where the plants sit directly on top of moistened peat. This means they’ll need more frequent watering than if you were using bark or other natural mulches.

For starting seeds or potting up plants, peat moss is a great way to create a sterile environment for seedlings or cuttings. It will help protect them from disease and pests, but peat should be removed before the plant goes into its final pot that it’ll grow in.

What disadvantages does peat moss have?

While most experts agree on peat moss’s usefulness as an organic material with essential minerals like potassium and magnesium (and other micronutrients), peat moss can have some disadvantages.

  • Peat moss is not suitable if your main goal is to add soil nutrients like nitrogen near plant roots because peat doesn’t provide much. Peat moss lack of nutrients means it doesn’t make an excellent stand-alone amendment. Hence, combining other materials with peat is a good idea.
  • Peat moss can also harbor certain pests, such as mites and nematodes, that may infest other growing plants in your garden.
  • Peat moss also has an acidic pH that can make it difficult for plants to grow just there.
  • Peat’s high salt content can also harm plants if they’re not planted correctly. However, experts say this problem can be avoided by using fresh peat or adding gypsum to help offset its effects on plant growth.

Environmental Concerns

What Is Peat Moss? Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages (3)

Peat moss mining also raises environmental concerns: peat moss is a non renewable resource, like other soil amendments such as compost. It can be found in peat bogs, and peat is harvested from these peat bogs in small amounts every year.

What Is Peat Moss? Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages (4)


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(Video) Why is peat moss bad?

Peat moss also contains peat, a type of organic matter made up mainly by decayed vegetation that accumulates in wetlands in the Northern Hemisphere. Actually, the U.S. gets up to 80% of sphagnum peat moss it uses from Canada. Canada is the area containing the second-biggest amounts of peat moss in the world, with 25% of the world moss. The peat bog mass harvested each year is an estimated 1/60th of the mass that accumulates.

They are considered good carbon sinks and can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere when peat bog are left intact. However, cutting into peat bogs to harvest peat moss can release the peat and peat-forming vegetation into the atmosphere, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

To prevent this from happening, there are initiatives underway to replant sphagnum moss with trees, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

If you’re considering using sphagnum peat moss on your vegetable beds or raised planters, try adding peat pellets instead. Peat pellets are just compressed peat balls that can be used like regular peat, but will eventually break down into composted material over time! Plus, they offer all of the same benefits mentioned above without negative environmental effects, making them an excellent substitute replacement.

What are some substitutes for peat moss?

Fortunately, there are many alternatives available instead, making an excellent substitute for peat moss and providing plenty of aeration without any peat’s negative environmental impacts.

A great alternative to peat moss in your garden would be compost mixed with other fertilizers like manure or adding coffee grounds directly into the soil. They provide nitrogen while also improving drainage and water retention. There are many alternatives available that most experts agree on their superior properties.

(Video) Beware the danger of using peat moss in your Garden containers and beds , Watch this video first

Coco coir is another peat moss substitute: it is the unused portion of coconut fiber that has been compressed and dried out. Coco coir peat is made from coconuts, a sustainable building material;

Pecan shell dust can also be used as a peat moss substitute in compost or soil because it contains plenty of nutrients for plants to grow.

Many people now substitute peat moss with compost as peat moss substitutes. Peat is also good to be used in the compost along with other ingredients because peat moss can provide the organic matter that many types of plants, fungi, and microorganisms need for growth.


While there are some environmental concerns regarding the use of peat mosses for gardening, this doesn’t mean it should be avoided entirely altogether!

Peat mosses are often considered an effective soil amendment for improving drainage and increasing moisture retention.

Peat moss can affect drainage and nutrients in the soil when mixed with compost or other organic materials like straw, which help offset its effects on plant growth.

If you’re considering using sphagnum peat moss on your vegetable beds or raised planters, try adding pellets instead.

I hope this article has helped you understand what sphagnum peat moss is used for in gardening, how it compares to other commonly used organic.


What does peat moss used for? ›

Peat moss is made up of decomposed organic material salvaged from peat bogs. It makes an excellent soil amendment to potting mix and garden soil, and mounds of peat moss can even serve as hydroponic growing media.

What is peat and its uses? ›

Peat is used for domestic heating purposes as an alternative to firewood and forms a fuel suitable for boiler firing in either briquetted or pulverized form. Peat is also used for household cooking in some places and has been used to produce small amounts of electricity.

What are three uses of peat? ›

Peatlands have been utilised for afforestation, agriculture, domestic and industrial turf- extraction and also commercial peat moss extraction. They have also been used for extensive and intensive grazing and for various types of infrastructural development.

What is an advantage and disadvantage of peat? ›

Peat soil has low pH levels and it can improve soil conditions in alkaline soils—especially for plants that thrive with higher levels of acidity like blueberries and azaleas. 5. Peat soil is a non-renewable resource. The most significant downside to peat soil is that it is an unsustainable, non-renewable resource.

What are the advantages of peat? ›

Peat moss's principle benefits are its water retention property, improvement in soil texture, and its ability to help keep nutrients from leaching out of the surrounding earth.

What does peat moss do to soil? ›

Peat moss is an important component of most potting soils and seed starting mediums. It holds several times its weight in moisture, and releases the moisture to the plants roots as needed. It also holds onto nutrients so that they aren't rinsed out of the soil when you water the plant.

What is the benefit of adding peat moss to soil? ›

You can add it into your soil to achieve any of the following results: Help drier, sandier soils retain moisture for longer. Help heavy clay soils loosen up and have better drainage. Increase the amount of organic material in the soil, which breaks down over time to provide nutrients.

Will plants grow in peat moss? ›

Almost any potted plant you can buy grows in a soil mix that contains peat moss, and most bagged potting soil does as well. You can also buy it on its own to mix into your own potting soil blend. It's especially useful for growing flowers and food in containers, because it helps plants maintain the moisture they need.

What is peat very short answer? ›

Peat is a type of coal used for household purposes. It consists of carbon and other carbon compounds. Peat is soft and easily compressed. Under pressure, water in the peat is forced out. Upon drying, peat can be used as a fuel.

Why is peat harmful to the environment? ›

Peat releases huge amounts of stored carbon dioxide when it is harvested, which adds to greenhouse gas levels. Peat mining is effectively unsustainable – it grows back at just 1 mm a year.

What do farmers use peat for? ›

Compost, peat, and sludge are used in agriculture and gardening as soil amendments rather than as fertilizers, because they have a low content of plant nutrients. They may be incorporated into the soil or mulched on the surface.

Which plants like peat moss? ›

Peat moss is acidic, and is excellent for use with acid-loving plants, like blueberries, azaleas and tomatoes. Because it can make your soil more acidic, you may need to add lime to the soil.

What are the effects of peat? ›

It immediately starts emitting greenhouse gases. After mining, the remaining peat continues to release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. 2. The carbon in peat, when spread on a field or garden, quickly turns into carbon dioxide, adding to greenhouse gas levels.

Is peat moss good for grass? ›

Putting peat moss on your lawn can help improve the drainage and soil texture. Peat moss also helps improve the lawn filtration and prevents runoff, especially if the turf uses clay soils.

Is peat moss good for trees? ›

Unlike other organic materials such as manure compost, peat moss is very poor in nutrients. It also doesn't contain any helpful microbes. So that means you can use peat moss as an amendment to the soil and other materials, but you cannot use it alone and expect the plants will grow strongly and properly.

What are the advantages of using peat pellets? ›

Using peat pellets is a popular way and has some advantages. The peat has a naturally occurring antimicrobial property that helps control fungal diseases. The peat pellets are also easy to handle which helps with transplanting. The peat pellets are easy to handle.

Is peat good for soil? ›

But here's an even weirder thing: not only is peat not a traditional growing media, it isn't even necessarily a very good one. It contains little to no nutrients and growing in peat-based mixes ties the grower to constantly applying fertilisers to keep plants healthy.

Does peat improve soil? ›

Peat moss improves soil because it does not compact over time, so it loosens soil and aerates it. Adding peat moss to soil also helps increase the soil's capacity for drainage. In sandy soils, incorporating peat moss will help the soil to retain water and make moisture available for plants.

What is peat moss made of? ›

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.

What grows well in peat soil? ›

Heather – likes damp, peaty soils which makes it ideal for acid ground. Camellias – woodland plants originally from Japan, China and Korea, Camellias like moist peaty acid soil best, but do grow in other soils provided there's plenty of organic matter, and adequate drainage.

Can you just put peat moss on top of soil? ›

Peat moss should be mixed into soil. Top dressing with peat is a bad idea because wind will blow it around and rain will harden it. — Mulch nourishes the soil as it breaks down. When well-incorporated into soil, peat can aid nutrient availability, but it contains little or no nutrients of its own.

How long does peat moss take to decompose? ›

Peat moss speeds the composting process, reduces odours and controls air and water in the compost pile. Peat moss decomposes slowly over several years compared to compost which typically decomposes within one year.

Does peat moss loosen the soil? ›

Peat allows for proper growth by loosening and aerating soils. 3) Helps bind sandy soil. By adding body to your mixture peat moss binds sandy soil and also helps to retain moisture and nutrients.

Does peat moss break down clay soil? ›

Peat moss breaks up clay soil making the clay not so compacted. This helps plants to be able to grow in the clay soil because peat moss breaks up the ground making more space for the roots to expand. What is this? It's important to understand that peat moss breaking up clay soil is beneficial for the soil.

How much peat moss to add to potting soil? ›

One-part peat moss and one-part potting soil is a pretty good ratio. You can, however, add a little more or less depending on the needs of your plants and the current condition of your soil. Adding in some liquid fertilizer is also a good idea because peat doesn't naturally contain a lot of its own nutrients.

How often do you water peat moss? ›

Watering frequency will depend on geographic location as well as the position in the house, type of plant, and the time of year. It is normal, for example, for watering to be around 4 weeks apart Summer. “First thing to know is that peat moss holds water.

How do you keep peat moss alive? ›

Soil should be saturated in the water allowing the moss to consistently hydrate. If placed in a terrarium where there isn't a direct source of constant water, sphagnum will do just fine retaining water for a period of time on its own. Just remember to mist when moss becomes noticeably dry.

Why is peat moss being banned? ›

Peat extraction also degrades the state of the wider peatland landscape, damaging habitats for some of our rarest wildlife such as the swallowtail butterfly, hen harriers and short-eared owls, and negatively impacting peat's ability to prevent flooding and filter water.

What is called as peat moss? ›

peat moss, (genus Sphagnum), also called bog moss or sphagnum moss, genus of more than 300 species of moss (division Bryophyta). The taxonomy of Sphagnum species has been controversial, and various botanists accept quite different numbers of species.

Where is peat used? ›

Peat is used in horticulture as a component of garden plant substrates, in agriculture for the production of garden soil and as an organic fertilizer, and in balneology as a material for baths and wraps.

Why is it called peat moss? ›

Sphagnum is sometimes called peat moss because much of the dead material in a peat bog comes from sphagnum moss that grew on top of the bog and induces the formation of peat.

Is peat toxic to humans? ›

Burning peat/turf or coal in your home releases carcinogenic vapours, toxic gases and small particles. Burning peat/turf or coal in your home can kill you, your family and your neighbours. The reason is that the burning process releases carcinogenic vapours, toxic gases and small particles.

Is peat moss unhealthy? ›

While peat moss provides very few nutrients, it does supply beneficial bacteria and is a natural fungicide for your garden plants. But while this is all great for the grower, it's not so great for the planet.

Is there peat in the US? ›

Peat deposits are found in many places around the world, including northern Europe and North America. The North American peat deposits are principally found in Canada and the Northern United States.

Can trees grow in peat? ›

Under current policy, thin peat soils below the 50cm/40cm threshold are deemed suitable for tree planting.

Is peat water safe to drink? ›

The peat was likely eroded as a result of a change in land management practices, and made worse by rain and wind erosion which washes the peaty soils into the loch. Although this water is perfectly safe to drink, it can require a lot of treatment before it reaches the quality that customers expect.

Does peat moss attract bugs? ›

Any organic mulch, whether it's derived from leaves, grass clippings, compost, wheat straw, or peat moss, has the most tendency to attract bugs and unwanted pests.

Is peat moss better than mulch? ›

Mulch nourishes the soil as it breaks down. When well-incorporated into soil, peat can aid nutrient availability, but it contains little or no nutrients of its own. Mulch is superior to peat moss at suppressing weeds. Mulch is usually made from local hardwoods and doesn't travel far.

How fast does peat grow? ›

Peat, or turf, as it is often referred to in Ireland, is a type of soil that contains a high amount of dead organic matter, mainly plants that have accumulated over thousands of years. It takes approximately a staggering 10 years for 1cm of peat to form!

Why should we not use peat? ›

Plantlife, along with the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth, is calling on government and industry to replace peat use in gardening and horticulture. Damaging peatlands has a knock-on effect on wildlife, carbon stores, flood risk and water quality.

Why should gardeners stop using peat moss? ›

Perhaps most important, peat extraction and use for horticulture are simply not sustainable. Peat grows at a very slow rate, only 1/32 of an inch per year. With some of the bogs being as deep as 40 feet, that means we are potting plants and starting seeds in a resource that takes centuries to grow!

What is peat and why is it bad? ›

Many gardeners trust peat as a growing medium. But it's not always ideal. It is a poor mulch, quickly dries out, and is easily blown away. Peat compost alternatives have been refined over many years to provide a fantastic growing medium.

Why is peat soil bad for the environment? ›

It immediately starts emitting greenhouse gases. After mining, the remaining peat continues to release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. 2. The carbon in peat, when spread on a field or garden, quickly turns into carbon dioxide, adding to greenhouse gas levels.

How long does it take for peat moss to decompose? ›

Peat moss or “peat” is made of partially decayed plant material—usually mosses—that have been submerged without oxygen in wet, acidic conditions, like those found in a bog. The decaying process is very slow, taking up to 1,000 years to create a 36-inch layer of it!

What plants should you use peat moss? ›

Peat moss is acidic, and is excellent for use with acid-loving plants, like blueberries, azaleas and tomatoes. Because it can make your soil more acidic, you may need to add lime to the soil.

Can plants grow in just peat moss? ›

Unlike other organic materials such as manure compost, peat moss is very poor in nutrients. It also doesn't contain any helpful microbes. So that means you can use peat moss as an amendment to the soil and other materials, but you cannot use it alone and expect the plants will grow strongly and properly.

Can worms live in peat moss? ›

Bedding can be made from a combination of moistened coconut coir, shredded newspaper, composted leaves, and/or peat moss. The worms will live in the dark, slightly damp bedding and munch away on the food. They will also eat the bedding over time. This is why it's important to choose safe bedding materials.

Does peat moss get moldy? ›

Mold on peat moss is usually created by the growth of filamentous fungi. If the water content is high, these organisms will grow on almost any type of organic matter. While the sight of mold growing on a freshly opened substrate bale may seem worrisome, they are not pathogenic to plants.


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