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Peat Moss for Vegetable Gardens — Advantages & Disadvantages

Peat Moss for Vegetable Gardens — Advantages & Disadvantages

Peat moss is a natural material lifted directly out of a peat bog.  The bogs contain moss that decays at an extremely slow rate. 

This is due to the high water content in the ground in these areas which create anaerobic conditions, resulting in a very slow rate of decomposition. 

Available in most garden centers and online, peat moss is viewed as a non-renewable product, given the very slow process of decomposition. 

In fact, the average peat bog gains under just a millimeter each year.  

But is it a useful product? Can you use it in your vegetable garden? Let’s find out. 

 

Is peat moss good for vegetable gardens?

Adding peat moss to your vegetable garden soil is a good idea for creating the acidic and water-retaining properties that some of your growing crops will need. With a soil pH of between 3.5 and 4.5, acidic environment lovers such as strawberries, tomatoes, or blueberries will thrive in it. 

 

Peat moss usage

Keen gardeners and farmers use peat moss to mix in with their soil. It is often also added to the potting mix in order to amend the properties of the base soil. 

Because of the acidic properties of peat moss, it will help plants and vegetables that require acidic soil thrive

 

How to use peat moss for the vegetable garden

You will need to mix peat moss with other components such as perlite and compost to make the perfect mix for your vegetable garden. 

If you need to adjust the acidity levels, you can also add some limestone. 

Likewise, if you already have established soil in your garden and simply want to make amendments to it, you can mix in a bit of peat moss to adjust the acidity or water-retaining qualities of the existing soil. 

 

Adding the peat moss into your vegetable garden

Add a layer of peat moss – usually 2 – 3 inches in depth – to the soil. Then mix it into the existing soil down to about 12 inches until evenly spread. 

If you are growing vegetables or fruits in a container, mix about 1/3 of the peat mix with 2/3 potting soil. 

 

Benefits of peat moss for your vegetable garden

Because of the slow process of decay of peat moss, you will find that one application of the product will usually last for years, releasing nutrients to your crops slowly over time.

It will hold water well too, which can be a benefit for some plants and vegetables and reduce the need for watering.

With pH levels of 3.5 to 4.5, acidic-loving fruits and vegetables are the ones that will do well when planted in a mix containing peat moss. 

This includes tomatoes, blueberries, and strawberries. Some plants enjoy the pH levels of a peat moss mix as well, such as camellias. 

In addition to the advantages of the pH levels for particular types of plants, peat moss is also sterile. As a result, it does not contain weeds or harmful bacteria that can cause problems when growing your own vegetables

 

Disadvantages of using peat moss in a vegetable garden

Whilst the benefits listed above can add enormous advantages to a vegetable garden, we should bear in mind the environmental aspects of using such a material. 

As the peat bogs develop so slowly, and as peat moss is harvested by essentially letting part of the bog die, you may prefer to use a more sustainable soil source, such as compost. 

On top of that, the procurement of peat moss in large quantities can be expensive.

If you do want to use it, it is probably better to mix it in with existing soil to keep the cost down. 

Due to the acidic qualities of the peat moss, vegetables that prefer more alkaline or neutral environments may struggle to thrive in a peat moss soil base. 

A compost material will be a better alternative in this scenario. 

One final disadvantage of using peat moss is that it is actually not that fertile. 

So, you will need to mix it into a soil mix that promotes fertility and use the peat moss more for its water-retaining benefits. 

 

Where to find peat bogs

Peat moss is found growing in peat bogs and is known as Sphagnum. The wetland bogs, with their high acid content, prevent organic matter from completely decomposing, resulting in peat.

A bog can take millions of years to form, and the by-product is viewed as a fossil fuel. 

When it is harvested, the peat can be cut out in brick-like shapes. 

The pure form of peat is then used as a fuel, particularly in Ireland, Scandinavia, and Scotland. 

 

Extraction of peat moss

Peat moss is harvested in a slightly different way compared to the pure peat used as fuel. The surface of the peat bog has water diverted away from it so that it begins to dry out. 

Under these conditions, the bog will begin to die and you can then harvest “peat moss” from the surface. 

The peat moss will retain the acidic properties of the bog long after it has been removed.

 

Frequently asked questions about the use of peat moss in vegetable gardens

 

Should I use peat moss in mv vegetable garden?

Peat moss can bring many advantages to a vegetable garden. Use a little by adding it to your existing soil base to keep costs down and reduce your environmental footprint, whilst still reaping the benefits. 

 

How should I apply peat moss to my vegetable garden?

Spread peat moss to a depth of 2 – 3 inches on your existing soil and then till around 12 inches in depth to help the moss integrate into your existing garden.