Peat moss for landscape gardening

Published 12:24 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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Yards to Paradise     

Peat is a most useful and abundant planting and seeding material that is almost universally used in modern plant propagation and growing. It’s a sustainably harvested natural resource, at least in North America, and the predominant source is Canada, though a good deal is harvested in the United States. The popular “Proven Winners” line of garden center plants use potting mix from Fafard group, a Canadian company that has several US plants, too. Mass production depends on peat for the plants we purchase from the big blue or orange store, or our favorite garden center.


Sometimes there’s negative press for using any product that has carbon or might in some manner increase pollution. Such stories distort the picture. For, any alternative also has some positives and negatives, and are also not as good in most cases for young seedling production of the garden plants and flowers most of us buy regularly in the spring.


Sphagnum moss and other bog plants decay over time, and the process is slow. To get the big picture, 86 percent of peat bogs are virgin and undisturbed. Canadian peat can only be harvested for about 30 to 45 days due to frozen ground and/or rain. Of the 160 million acres, only about a fourth of one percent of those are being actively mined. And of the 9,000 acres finished, over half have been reclaimed to near original state. Other countries may have other statistics, but in any case it is a natural and an environmentally friendly product used everyday in modern horticulture.


What are the garden uses of peat? Potting mixes and seed starting pots are a primary use. Bales of shredded peat can be tilled or mixed into garden beds to help aerate compacted or clay soils (or add organic matter to sandy soils). We often use peat to reduce pH, especially useful for cultivating blueberries, azaleas and many acid-loving shrubs and perennials. Certainly perlite, peanut hulls, rice hulls, coconut husks, pine fines and a myriad of other things can and are added to planting mixes and grow mixes, but it’s tough to get a dependable medium without using some peat.  


In summary, peat is the perfect seed starting ingredient, and a lovely ingredient in potting and planting mixes and garden or tree planting soils. Most of it is responsibly harvested and the areas restored upon completion of harvest or mining. It is acidic, and not every plant likes that. But some lime or some wood ashes easily corrects that situation if using a lot of peat in gardening and landscaping. Bales of peat moss are the most economical for mixing your own combinations, but a seed starting or potting mix containing peat is probably more convenient for many to begin gardening in.


The author is a landscaper. He can be reached at or (606) 416-3911.