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Mixing Peat Moss With Soil

May 24, 2021
Written by Aaron

Peat moss is probably a familiar term if you’ve ever browsed through a garden centre, but you might be unsure of how and why it’s used. Many potting soils actually come with a bit of peat moss already mixed in, but you can also buy it on its own. Mixing peat into your soil can offer major benefits, but there are some important things to keep in mind before you start adding fistfuls of peat into all your plant containers

 

What is Peat Moss, and Why Are People Mixing It With Soil?

Peat moss is a material that grows on top of bogs, usually here in Canada. It’s used as a natural potting medium because its loose, spongy texture has amazing moisture retention for plants, as well as many other benefits. The thing is, it takes thousands of years for peat moss to develop, so it isn’t exactly an easily renewable resource. However, by using it sparingly as an additive to soils, we can still reap all the benefits without having to use that much. 

peat moss in hand

What Does Mixing in Peat Moss Do To Soil?

There are so many different kinds of soil. Some soils are heavy and full of clay; others are sandy and low in nutrients. Some are acidic, and some are more alkaline. The kind of soil you want usually depends on the type of plants you’re growing, but generally speaking, peat moss helps improve soils of all different kinds. 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
  • Make standard potting mediums more suitable for epiphytic plants like orchids and staghorn ferns
  • Reduce and slow down soil compaction and decomposition
  • Reduce high alkalinity in soils
  • Lower soil pH levels for plants like blueberries which prefer acidic soils
  • Retain soil nutrients, so they don’t get flushed out from water 

While compost is often used for improving drainage and balancing pH, one of the advantages of peat moss is that there’s no risk of any hidden weed seeds or pathogens. Compost can be a wonderful thing if you’ve got a good batch, but if your compost pile is contaminated, your garden plants could suffer.

testing soil pH

Peat Moss and Soil Acidity

Most plants thrive in soils with fairly balanced pH levels, but there are some that prefer slightly more acidic, or slightly more alkaline soils. Since peat moss is acidic, it has the effect of reducing pH levels in alkaline soils. If a soil test indicates that your soil is too alkaline, mixing in some peat moss will help bring it down. However, if you’ve already got acidic soil, consider adding some lime to counterbalance the acidity—lime the soil amendment, not lime the fruit! 

 

Properly Mixing Peat Moss Into Soil

Before you add peat moss to soil, you should soak it in water for a few minutes first. Simply put some moss in a bin, fill it with water and let it sit. Remove the moist moss, give it a little squeeze to remove excess water, and then mix it into your soil at a 1:1 ratio. You can add more or less depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your soil composition. Hot tip: you can also add some liquid fertilizer into the water when soaking your peat moss, to fortify it with extra nutrients for your plants!

Impacting the Environment 

As mentioned before, peat moss is a natural resource that takes thousands of years to develop. There are some environmental impacts to harvesting peat moss, so it’s good to be aware of the effects before you go out and buy bags and bags of the stuff. But don’t worry—a little bit of peat moss goes a very long way, so you really don’t need to use much at all!

Healthy plants help to remove a great deal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so in a way, it all evens out by growing healthy plants, you’re still doing your part to make the world a greener place! Just remember to be conscious about your consumption and avoid wasting materials whenever possible. 

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