Valley City Times-Record

For peat moss sake


By Carrie Knutson, horticultu­re agent NDSU Extension – Grand Forks Peat moss is a gardener’s go-to product for fixing almost any soil issue. Growing plants in a container? Use a peat-base, soil-less mix. Need to loosen-up your soil? Add peat moss. Want more water holding capacity? Add peat moss. You get the idea. Gardeners, do you ever take a moment to wonder where this miracle product comes from?

Peat moss is appropriat­ely named, as it is decomposed moss. Peat moss forms in wet, low-lying areas such as bogs and wetlands. These peat wetlands are found in cool climates. Main peat-producing areas are located in Russia and Canada.

Because of the wet conditions, the peat wetlands lack oxygen. Oxygen and warm temperatur­es are needed for fast decomposit­ion. Therefore, the cool conditions and low oxygen levels slow the decomposit­ion of plant residues, so it accumulate­s over hundreds or even thousands of years.

The peat moss gardeners use is typically made from Sphagnum moss species, but other mosses, and even grasses and reeds can form peats. Although, grass and reed peats have a lower quality that makes the peat undesirabl­e for horticultu­ral use.

Side note, peat moss is not the same as Sphagnum moss. Dried Sphagnum moss is long strings of moss that are used to decorate potted plants and silk flower arrangemen­ts.

Peat moss is used in containers and as a soil amendment because of its water holding capacity, and at the same time, it promotes water drainage, balancing the amount of air and water in the root zone. As I mentioned, it is the main ingredient in many soil-less potting mixes, and it is used as a soil amendment.

The sustainabi­lity of peat harvesting and the impacts of removing peat are hot topics. Peat wetlands are an important part of our ecosystems. They are home to rare plants and animals. They clean water and remove carbon dioxide from the air.

There are alternativ­es you can use if you don’t want to use peat moss. You can use compost to replace peat moss as a soil amendment. Coconut coir can be used in container mixes. Researcher­s are testing tomato and mushroom waste and biochar, among other things, as a peat moss replacemen­t. In fact, there are already soil-less, peat-less potting mixes on the market. The potting mixes have ingredient­s like biochar, coconut coir, perlite and plant-based compost.

Whether you use a potting mix or chose to use one of the soil-less peat-less mixes, thank peat moss for all that it does for gardeners and the environmen­t. Happy gardening! Peat moss is used as a soil amendment because of its water holding capacity, and at the same time, it promotes water drainage.

 ?? ?? Carrie Knutson
Carrie Knutson
 ?? (NDSU photo) ??
(NDSU photo)

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