I ♥ Peat Moss Ilona Erwin Oct 2, 2007 2 Comments

I do. Peat moss has been my garden's best friend for a long time. It is mainly a soil conditioner, and that is what makes it so valuable. I used to garden on heavy clay, and even though my soil is now clay loam, it still benefits from the incorporation of some peat moss when planting. Now the going advice for planting trees or shrubs is to not make any special efforts to amend the soil, the logic being that the roots will be too happy in their little spot and not reach out into the native soil, but I've tried both ways now and I thought the adding of peat moss was one of the best boosts for my new plants. It is an easy way to generally keep improving the soil of an established garden to dig in some compost and peat moss with each new planting, too.

I picked up that last little technique early in my gardening days. There was a older neighbor lady who had a lovely old fashioned garden. I went over to help her a bit, and she shared that technique with me, it is one I've used happily through the years. Now I am that old lady! and I share it with you:)

Once, long ago, I made the common mistake of buying 'Michigan peat' when I wanted sphagnum peat moss. They aren't the same thing, Michigan peat being a type of top soil. Nice, but not peat moss and not a soil conditioner. What a conditioner does is something of the same thing as adding in any organic matter: it adds bulk and breathing space into the clay and holds moisture and valuable nutrients in the sand. Peat moss is also somewhat acid in pH, which is good when your soil tends to be alkaline.

The thing to remember about peat moss is how much moisture it will hold. It can stay quite dry when using it with new plantings, so I am always sure to "mud things in", add more water until the moss is truly wetted. It can crust and dry in droughty weather, so it is best below the surface and not to be used as "mulch". Remember that with peat pots, too: break down the sides and get them under the surface so they don't wick up and dry out. If under the surface, where they stay moist, they rot down nicely.

Some garden advice warns that peat moss is dusty and one needs to use a mask when working with it. I never have done that- I just try to not throw it around in the air when getting it into the ground! I don't like to breathe dust anyway; most people don't. So just use caution, know that when getting it from plastic bag to earth, it can disperse in the air where you breathe it... just take your time shoveling it or pouring it out. No big deal, really. At least that is my opinion, but if you have goggles and a mask- go ahead and use them. I like to look like a bug when I garden, too.

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by Ilona Erwin

A gardener, blogger, writer, who has been blogging here since 2004, and writing for my website, Ilona's Garden since 1998.

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  1. Hi: Was just wandering around reading some of your articles and post's. Peat Moss great stuff, I also add some Vermiculite it helps keep the soil crumbly and retains moisture.


  2. hey there John :)
    I've always used peat moss. This garden is too big for vermiculite in large amounts, but I found that dumping my past seasons containers into the garden also adds vermiculite. It has been a boon, as you say.

    Glad to see you reading on the innards of the site....


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