The Purpose of Peat Moss
Peat moss is derived from sphagnum bogs and is a good source of humus for your garden. It is used in growing medium mixtures to increase air circulation and moisture retention. It can be used as an additive to aide aeration in compost piles and speeds the composting process. You may also use peat moss to lower soil pH in alkaline soils. Peat moss has little nutritional value, but it can store soil nutrients and release them as they are needed. Peat moss also makes very attractive mulch.
Peat Moss in Garden Beds
In garden beds, peat can serve several purposes: aeration of plant roots in heavier soils, adding body to sandy soils, absorbing and retaining more moisture and reducing leaching of nutrients in soil. Peat moss can hold up to 20 times its weight in moisture, releasing slowly for more uniform soil moisture. For new garden beds, turn two inches of peat moss, along with other organic matter for nutrients, such as compost, into the top six to eight inches of soil. To condition existing garden beds, dig one inch of peat moss into the top six to eight inches of soil, being careful not to disturb plant roots.
Adding Peat Moss to the Compost Pile
Not only does peat moss increase aeration in the compost pile, it also is an innoculant that hastens the composting process. By mixing peat moss into the compost at approximately a 1 to 4 ratio, you will acquire compost that is crumbly and easy to spread.
Lowering Soil pH
Peat moss is acidic, with an average pH of about 4.5, so it works well to lower the soil pH for plants that like a slightly higher acidity.
Peat Moss as Mulch
As mulch, peat moss is not only attractive but it also helps to retain moisture in the soil. It is excellent mulch for newly planted seed beds, because it allows good airflow for your seeds. 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 can also be used for things other than gardening. Peat moss is great for soaking up grease, oil and other spills and also has gained acclaim as an environmentally friendly filter material for septic systems.