Peat moss is a good soil amendment for new plantings, whether in a new planting bed or in an already established bed that just needs some new additions. Peat moss aerates heavy, clay soils to allow the development of good root systems and also binds sandy soils to decrease the leaching of nutrients from the soil. When planting seeds, peat moss also makes good mulch, allowing air to flow, while retaining moisture that newly planted seedlings need, or it can be used to make a growth medium for seeds started in pots or flats. Peat moss is great in potting mix for new houseplants as well.
New Planting Beds
With heavy clay soils, peat moss aerates the soil to break it down, allowing plants to establish better root systems, and decreases the leaching of nutrients from sandy soils, as well as increasing moisture retention. Peat moss has the capacity to retain 20 times its weight in moisture, which is also released slowly, as the soil is in need of it. For new garden beds, turn 2 inches of peat moss, along with other organic matter for nutrients, such as compost, into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Adding Plants to Established Beds
Although peat moss contains very little nutrients naturally, it retains added soil nutrients and releases them slowly as needed. To condition existing garden beds, dig 1 inch of peat moss into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, being careful not to disturb plant roots.
Mulching New Seed Beds
Peat moss works well as mulch for new seed beds, retaining moisture while allowing good air flow. Continuous use of peat moss as a mulch will tend to make the soil surface slightly acidic, so it may not be advisable to use peat moss as mulch for plants that like a higher soil pH.
Peat Moss as A Growth Medium
Peat moss is sterile, so it makes a good component for moisture retention and aeration when planting seeds indoors in pots or flats. Mixed with equal parts of sterile compost to provide nutrients, pre-moistened peat moss will produce a good growing medium for seeds. (Compost can be purchased sterile or baked at 180 degrees F for 30 minutes to sterilize.) Equal parts of builder's sand, perlite or vermiculite can also be added to improve drainage.
New House Plants
House plants may also benefit from the moisture retention capabilities of peat moss. A standard, all purpose potting mixture contains one part peat moss, one part sand and two parts garden loam. Keep new house plants moist for the first couple of weeks until they are well established. Then water regularly.