Peatlands spread across every province of Canada. Sphagnum peat moss offers a renewable garden choice as a soil additive and mulch. The moss has the unique ability to absorb water and air in large quantities. A single bog offers the capability of being harvested for 50 years and then renews itself within 8 to 20 years so harvest in the future can take place again.
Canadian sphagnum peat moss occurs when sphagnum moss growth dies within the bog. The moss grows across the top of the bog water prolifically. As the new growth dies back naturally, the dead moss is forced down into the dark water of the bog under the live growth of the moss. Once deprived of light the peat moss begins to decay.
Harvesting occurs when the bogs are drained of water and allowed to dry out. The entire harvesting process takes 45 to 55 days. Once the peat moss dries out, the moss is harrowed using large machinery. A vacuum truck drives through the bog and vacuums it up for transport to the factory where it is processed for commercial use. Peat moss harvest takes place across Canada, with 60 percent occurring in the eastern provinces and the remaining percentage occurring in the western regions, according to Berger Peat Moss.
The majority of peat moss is baled into large cubes for shipment out of Canada around the world to garden centers, retailers and nurseries for use as soil nutrient additive or as mulch. Some peat moss ships to factories for manufacture into peat pots which will hold young plants. Peat pots offer the gardener the added ability to plant the young plant with the container into the soil. The peat container bio-degrades in the soil to add nutrients.
A peat bog that is left to naturally regenerate after harvest takes up to 20 years for the process to occur. Research is underway, according to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, to determine the benefits of planting transplants and seeding harvested bog areas. Indications show that these processes shorten regeneration to only 5 to 8 years.
Sphagnum peat moss is the first step toward coal production. Over the course of 400 million years the water is compressed out of the peat moss as layer upon layer accumulates and the bog dries out. The peat moss transforms into soft coal lignite. Over the course of another 100 million years, the lignite changes into bituminous coal.