What is the Purpose of Peat Moss?


Peat moss is a common soil additive for vegetable and flower gardens. It is a naturally mined product that is used is several ways by gardeners. There is an unusual quality to peat moss that must be addressed if you are to use it successfully in your garden: It is difficult to remoisten if it dries out completely. Peat moss purchased in bale-size packages from garden centers is usually quite dry. Poke a small hole in the plastic wrapper that is large enough to insert the end of your hose. Allow a slow trickle of water to moisten the peat moss for at least an hour, or until the center of the bale feels moist when you put your hand into it.

Improve Soil When Planting Trees and Shrubs

Add peat moss to the soil you remove from the planting hole when planting trees and shrubs on your property. Mix the peat moss into the soil thoroughly. This method is used when the existing soil is of very poor quality with little or no fertility. If there are few weeds or other vegetation growing near the spot where you will plant your tree or shrub, the soil is probably of low quality, infertile, and you should add peat moss when transplanting.

Improve Structure of Garden Soil

Add approximately 33 percent peat moss by volume to your soil before tilling it in spring. Do this by laying down a 1- to 6-inch layer on the surface of the soil. Shallow digging or tilling will require less peat moss than a deep tilling. Peat moss holds water and will improve the structure of your garden soil by keeping the moisture level fairly consistent. Its bulk also adds air spaces to the soil, which is beneficial for your plants' roots, making it easier for them to penetrate the soil.

Amendment for Soil in Potted Plants

Add peat moss to your potting soil mixture at the rate of about one part peat moss to three parts potting soil. This will help the potted plants retain water so they don't dry out as fast, which is particularly beneficial for outdoor potted plants during hot summer weather.

Add to Compost to Aid Decomposition

Add peat moss to your compost pile. Compost piles need both brown and green organic materials in order for the decomposition process to occur. Brown materials for compost piles are more rare during summer's active growing period. Peat moss can be added as a brown material along with all of the green materials from weeding your garden and collecting fruit and vegetable trimmings. Add approximately one part of brown compost ingredients to three parts of green compost ingredients.

Use as a Seed-Starting Medium

Peat moss is sterile and contains few micro-organisms and no weed seeds so it makes an excellent medium for starting seeds. Fill the seed-starting pots with peat moss and thoroughly moisten it by setting the pots into a larger container filled with enough water to come about half way up the small pots. Let the pots sit in the water until the surface of the peat moss looks and feels damp. Once the peat moss is thoroughly moistened, sow your seeds.

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About this Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.