fbpx

What is Peat Moss?

Peat moss is the remains of decaying plants often found in recent and ancient bogs and wetlands. It is a non-renewable resource that takes thousands of years to form. Peat moss is harvested and dried for use in various applications.

These include potting mixes, gardening, and commercial horticulture.

Peat Moss is found in most potting mixes

What is Peat Moss & How is it Used?

Peat moss is used mainly to:

  • Amend garden soil: Peat moss is a good soil amendment because it helps to improve drainage, aeration, and water retention. It can also help improve the soil’s pH, making it more acidic. This can benefit plants that prefer acidic soil, such as blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons.
  • Start seeds: Peat moss is a suitable medium for starting seeds because it is sterile and lightweight. It also holds moisture well, which is essential for germinating seeds.
  • Grow plants in containers: Peat moss is an excellent growing medium for plants in containers because it is lightweight and holds moisture well. It also helps to improve drainage and aeration, which container plants need.
  • Create potting mixes: Peat moss is a common ingredient in potting mixes because it helps to improve drainage, aeration, and water retention. It can also help improve the potting mix’s pH, making it more acidic. This can be beneficial for plants that prefer acidic soil.
  • Horticulture: Peat moss is used in commercial horticulture to create various products, such as potting mixes, seed starting trays (peat pots), and plant covers.
peat pots made from peat moss

Peat Moss is a Good Soil Amendment

Peat moss is a good soil amendment because it:

  • Holds moisture well
  • Improves drainage
  • Buffers soil pH
  • Provides aeration
  • Suppresses plant diseases
home microgreens sells seeds

FREE Home Microgreens Grow course that teaches you the basics of growing microgreens in your home! There are 12 video lessons (over 120 minutes), downloads, and more written information and tips!

Is Peat Moss Sustainable?

Peat moss is a valuable resource, but the rate of excavation and consumption is not sustainable. We are harvesting peat moss faster than it is forming.

Therefore, we need to use it responsibly.

When harvesting peat moss, it is essential to reclaim the mining area so that more organic material can be deposited, and sphagnum moss and other plants that make up peat moss can grow and decay, forming peat moss.

harvesting peat moss
Aerial view to the bog landscape with the remaining natural elements and destroyed area by peat extraction. Also, watch second video below to see the process.

I’m Not Sure Anything is Sustainable – My View(s)

I think there is confusion with the word sustainable and the word renewable.

For example, after you watch the videos below (there are two) let me know what you think. It might be wise to watch the coconut coir videos too. I think coconut coir is very renewable. It is a waste product and nothing is destroyed by the harvesting of this material. Nothing is killed or misplaced by planting or harvesting the product.

While peat moss, even though the companies with government oversight (in Canada at least) are trying to restore the peat bogs. However, what takes thousands if not tens of thousands of years to form can be gone in a matter of seconds. Plus all of the habitat destruction, death or forced migration of what lives in, on, or around the peat bogs.

But neither is sustainable because it takes energy to harvest, transport, process, bag, and deliver to retail outlets. I would assume peat moss has much less energy requirements for those of us in North America instead of shipping coir half way around the world.

However, as a geologist, I do not believe the peat bogs are being formed (reclaimed) as quickly as they are destroyed.

Did Glaciation Help Form Peat Beds?

Short Answer: Yes, glaciation helped form peat beds. 

Peat beds are formed when dead plant material accumulates in an anaerobic environment, such as a bog or wetland. 

Glaciers helped form a landscape conducive to gathering and depositing plant material in large enough quantities.

 This plant material is then slowly broken down by bacteria and fungi, and over time, it forms a thick layer of peat moss.

Glaciation can help to form peat beds in several ways. First, glaciers can create depressions in the landscape, such as kettle holes, which can fill with water and become wetlands.

Second, glaciers can transport large amounts of sediment, which can be deposited in these wetlands, providing a substrate for plant growth.

Third, glaciers can cool the climate, favoring the growth of bog plants, such as sphagnum moss.

As a result of these factors, glaciation can create ideal conditions for forming peat beds.

In fact, some of the most extensive peat beds in the world are found in once-glaciated areas, such as Canada, Ireland, and Scandinavia.

Here are some additional details about how glaciation can help form peat beds:

  • Kettle holes: Kettle holes are depressions in the landscape formed when large chunks of ice melt and leave behind a hole. These holes can fill with water and become wetlands, which are ideal areas for peat moss to form.
  • Sediment: Glaciers can transport large amounts of sediment, which can be deposited in wetlands. This sediment can provide a substrate for plant growth, and it can also help to keep the wetlands moist.
  • Cool climate: Glaciers can cool the climate, favoring the growth of bog plants, such as sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss is a type of moss that grows in acidic conditions, and it is a crucial component of peat moss.

Overall, glaciation can play a significant role in forming peat beds. By creating wetlands, depositing sediment, and cooling the climate, glaciers can create ideal conditions for the growth of peat moss.

Without glaciers, peat formation may take considerably longer, and the size of the peat beds could be much smaller.

peat moss comes from peat bogs

What Are the Environmental Concerns of Over-harvesting Peat Moss?

Peat moss should also be used in moderation, as it can negatively impact the environment.

Here are some of the environmental concerns associated with the use of peat moss:

  • Peat bogs are important carbon sinks. When peat moss is harvested, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  • Peat bogs are home to a variety of plants and animals. When peat bogs are disturbed, these plants and animals can be harmed or destroyed.
  • Peat moss production can lead to water pollution. The chemicals used to harvest, and process peat moss can pollute nearby water bodies.

How Long Does It Take Peat Moss to Form?

It takes thousands of years for peat moss to form. Peat moss comprises the remains of dead plants and animals decomposed in an anaerobic environment. This means the environment lacks oxygen, allowing the plant material to decompose slowly.

The slower decomposition process and deposition of organic plant material (carbon) store carbon in the earth, not the atmosphere. Making peat moss is a good carbon sink.

Is Peat Moss Being Created Now?

Yes, peat moss is still being created now. However, peat moss takes thousands of years to form, so it is a non-renewable resource, regardless of what the producers say.

It is important to choose a sustainable alternative to peat moss whenever possible. By doing so, you can help to protect the environment and support sustainable practices.

Here are some of the benefits of using sustainable alternatives to peat moss:

  • Sustainability: Sustainable alternatives to peat moss are made from renewable resources, so they can be used indefinitely without depleting natural resources.
  • Environmental benefits: Sustainable alternatives to peat moss have a lower environmental impact than peat moss. For example, they do not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when harvested.
  • Similar properties: Sustainable alternatives to peat moss have similar properties to peat moss, so they can be used similarly. For example, they can improve soil drainage, aeration, and water retention.

Several options are available if you are looking for a sustainable alternative to peat moss. Some of these alternatives include:

  • Coco coir: Coco coir is a byproduct of the coconut industry. It is an excellent alternative to peat moss because it is sustainable and has similar properties.
  • Vermiculite: Vermiculite is a mineral that is mined from the earth. It is a good alternative to peat moss because it is lightweight and holds moisture well.
  • Perlite: Perlite is a volcanic rock that is expanded by heat. It is an excellent alternative to peat moss because it is lightweight and provides good drainage.

It is vital to choose a sustainable alternative to peat moss whenever possible. By doing so, you can help to protect the environment and support sustainable practices.

Where is Peat Moss Found?

Peat moss is found in bogs and wetlands. Bogs are acidic, waterlogged areas that are poor in nutrients. They are typically found in cold climates, such as the northern hemisphere.

Wetlands are areas of land saturated with water for at least part of the year. They are found all over the world, in both temperate and tropical climates. However, the main component of peat moss, sphagnum moss, grows better in temperatures, if not colder climates.

sphagnum moss forms peat moss

The most extensive peatlands in the world are found in Russia, Canada, and the United States. Peat moss is also found in Finland, Sweden, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Here are some of the most common places where peat moss is found:

  • Canada
  • Russia
  • United States
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • China

It is important to note that peat moss is a non-renewable resource. However, there are opposite views, especially from the producers if you can imagine that. You can see what they have to say about the sustainability of peat moss by watching this video or visiting the website.

What Countries Produce the Most Peat Moss?

Here are the top 5 countries that produce the most peat moss:

  • Canada – Canada is the largest peat moss producer globally, accounting for over 60% of global production.
  • Russia – Russia is the second largest peat moss producer globally, accounting for over 15% of global production.
  • Finland – Finland is the world’s third largest peat moss producer, accounting for over 10% of global production.
  • United States – The United States is the fourth largest peat moss producer globally, accounting for over 5% of global production.
  • Ireland – Ireland is the fifth largest peat moss producer globally, accounting for over 4% of global production.

Who Are The Largest Peat Moss Producers?

Here are some of the largest peat moss producers in the world:

  • Sun Gro Horticulture: Sun Gro Horticulture is a Canadian company that is the largest producer of peat moss in North America. It produces over 1 million metric tons of peat moss per year.
  • Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association: The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association is a trade association representing Canada’s peat moss industry. It has over 80 member companies, which produce over 95% of the peat moss in Canada.
  • Vapo Oy: Vapo Oy is a Finnish company that is the largest peat moss producer in Europe. It produces over 500,000 metric tons of peat moss per year.
  • Bord na Móna: Bord na Móna is an Irish company that is the largest producer of peat moss in Ireland. It produces over 200,000 metric tons of peat moss per year.
  • Vermico: Vermico is a United States company that is the largest producer of peat moss in the United States. It produces over 100,000 metric tons of peat moss per year.

Stock images by Depositphotos

Author

  • Todd

    Todd is the founder of Home Microgreens & the Home Microgreens store. He also writes for several other websites, including MyViewFromTheWoods.com. Todd worked at a large farm market, garden & nursery center for 20 years. Somehow he snuck off to become a geologist and professor before coming back to his senses to write & lecture about microgreens and gardening. When not at the computer, he can be found in the garden, trout stream, or mountain trail with his new Springer Spaniel Caden.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top