The Best Ways to Use Peat Moss

By Edward Hamilton , last updated April 7, 2011

Peat moss has long been a favorite of gardeners, both amateur and professional, for use in gardens. Peat moss, or decayed and compacted Sphagnum moss, dramatically improves soil quality by increasing aeration and moisture retention while moderating the release of vital soil minerals. In addition, unlike many commercial products which might claim such amazing benefits, peat moss is cheap, abundant, and organic. Peat moss does not rely on chemicals or other artificial substances, but possesses a cell-like structure which holds nutrients and water extremely well. When combined with compost or other nutrient-rich garden products, peat moss is an excellent addition to the soil in nearly any gardening situation.

Cut Down on Lawn Maintenance

Most lawns can use a bit of help. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have grass as green as an Irish hillside in the springtime, you’re probably investing hours of your time into maintenance. You can cut down on time spent watering and fertilizing just by spreading a small amount of peat moss over your lawn. The cell structure of the moss will hold moisture extremely well, releasing it slowly over time and allowing your lawn to take full advantage of your watering for days afterwards. Similarly, the nutrients you add to the soil when spreading fertilizer or compost will be absorbed and then released slowly and steadily by the peat moss, ensuring that your pride and joy will be growing at its full potential with fewer trips to Home Depot and fewer backaches.

Give Your Shrubs the Best Possible Start

Before you can have that Easter Island statue topiary you’ve always wanted, you need to have a tree or shrub that is truly thriving. Once again, peat moss is an excellent choice to ensure that your plant has everything it needs to remain in great health. When you have brought home your tree or shrub from the nursery and have dug a hole large enough to safely plant it, mix one part peat moss with two parts of the soil that you have dug up. Then use that moss/soil mixture to fill in the hole, and then care for the shrub as usual. For plants requiring acidic soil, a one part moss to one part soil mixture is more appropriate – peat moss is itself acidic and will shift the pH of the soil accordingly.

Sow an Ideal Flower Bed

Thin, sandy soil is great for dogs trying to dig underneath fences but far from ideal for the home gardener looking to grow a decent bed of flowers. Roots are unable to grow securely into the soil, leaving them vulnerable. Clay soil is nearly as bad, impeding root growth directly by its thickness. Digging two inches or so of peat moss into the top half foot of soil of a new flower bed will moderate the extremes of either kind of soil, aerating thick, clay soil while stabilizing sandy soil. If your flower bed is already planted, you can carefully hand dig just an inch of peat moss into the soil. As always, combining peat with compost provides plants with not only an excellent growth bed but also with the nutrients to take full advantage of it.

Make Compost

If you’ve ever tried composting, you have probably paid the price for your rich soil and reduced carbon footprint in strange and unpleasant odors wafting up from your compost heap. The same cell structure that allows peat moss to contain moisture and nutrients in your garden will help you to control those nasty smells. Moss also facilitates air and water flow in the heap, actually speeding up the composting process. If you use the composted soil on your garden, including peat moss in the compost will also allow you to reap all of the benefits that moss brings to soil. Dig in about one inch of peat moss for every four inches of compost in the body of the heap to optimize the composting process and line the top with several inches to control unpleasant smells.

Create Your Own Planters

The amazing properties of peat moss make it a crucial component of hypertufa, a lightweight concrete product that can be used to make all kinds of garden fixtures. Combining three parts ordinary cement, five parts perlite, and four parts peat moss gives the base for a porous concrete that is an ideal base for creating your own planters from the molds of your choosing. The airy concrete structure makes hypertufa extremely light while allowing air flow and drainage to any plants placed within the planter.

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