Peat Moss Alternatives: What To Use Instead Of Peat Moss

by johnah on November 16, 2020

What Is Peat Moss?

Peat Moss is a type of organic material found in many parts of the world, especially in tropical regions. It consists mainly of decomposed plant matter with small amounts of animal remains such as bones and teeth. These materials are usually found in damp areas where they have been exposed to water or rainwater for long periods of time. They may also be present when soils contain high levels of salts (e.g., salt marshes). Peat moss is often used as a soil amendment because it retains moisture well and can act as a natural mulch. It can also absorb large quantities of nutrients from the surrounding environment.

The term “peat” comes from the Latin word pectin which means “pearly.” Pectins are a group of polysaccharides that include xanthan gum, guar gum, maltodextrin, and hydroxypropylcellulose.

How Does Peat Moss Work?

Peat moss works as a good substrate for most types of aquatic life. It acts as a natural filter and provides habitat for fish, invertebrates, crustaceans, mollusks and other aquatic organisms. Some species of algae thrive on peat moss. Other beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoa live in the peat itself. When it comes to nutrition, peat moss is low in nutrients but high in moisture. Almost all types of aquatic plants thrive when cultivated in this organic material.

Peat moss is a good addition to potting mixes for potted plants and seedlings. It can also be used as a soil conditioner and light fertilizer. As a soil conditioner, peat moss helps retain moisture by making the soil more absorbent. As with most organic components, peat moss also contains small amounts of plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

When added to soils with a high concentration of potassium, it helps reduce the levels of that nutrient. It also helps lower soil pH when it is mixed with soils that are alkaline in nature.

CAUTION: Not all peat moss are safe for your plants. It is best to seek out organic peat moss instead of the non-organic ones. Non-organic peat moss are known to contain pesticide residues that could be harmful to your plants.

Other Names

peat, bog, muck, moose, muskeg, ooze, peatland, sludge, turfs

Does Peat Moss Work As An Alternative To Sphagnum?

Sphagnum peat moss is often considered an acceptable alternative to sphagnum peat moss. Both peat types are capable of retaining moisture and making the soil around them more absorbent. Both peat types also have the ability to lower soil pH levels when they are mixed with other soils.

The main difference between the two peat types is that sphagnum peat moss is a living organism. When sphagnum peat moss is added to a container with water, it tends to sink to the bottom and slowly release oxygen to the water. Some aquatic plant species tend to thrive when cultivated in sphagnum peat moss.

When it comes to cultivating plants in non-living peat moss, there is less biological activity. This type of peat moss tends to float in water so it does not release oxygen as readily as sphagnum peat moss does. Both types of peat moss are good for soil conditioning and as media for young plant propagation.

Peat moss can be sold under a variety of different names including sphagnum peat moss, leaf mold, and others. When choosing a peat moss for any type of horticultural use, it is best to look for a product that contains little to no chemicals. Peat moss can be identified by its dark brown color and its odor. It has a distinctive smell due to the natural organic acids and resins that are released when it is mixed with water.

Peat moss is often used to line the bottoms of flower pots to ensure proper drainage and humidity for potted plants. It does not drain water as well as gravel, but it helps increase the moisture retention of potting soil. Peat moss can also be used as a soil additive to add acidity to alkaline soils and the opposite as well. It does not release a lot of nutrients and should not be considered a substitute for fertilizers.

Gardeners sometimes use peat moss as a top dressing for lawns since it helps retain moisture and keep the grass blade soft. It is also an environmentally friendly alternative to sand and gravel since it is completely biodegradable.

Peat moss is a safe alternative to using styrofoam peanuts when shipping live plants since it helps keep the soil around the roots intact during transit. It can also be used as craft material for children. Peat mounds make an excellent sensory experience when added to a tray of soil or water.

How To Grow Sphagnum Moss

Peat moss is not a plant; it is considered a bryophyte, which is an ancient group of plants that are related to mosses and liverworts. It grows naturally in bogs and swamps where the soil is very acidic and the water is very stagnant. Peat forms when dead plant material accumulates and begins to decay anaerobically. It can take hundreds and sometimes thousands of years for peat to form naturally.

Sphagnum moss can be found in many gardening stores where it may be available in different forms such as compressed bricks or loose material. It is often used as a packaging material to protect plants during shipping.

It can also be collected from bogs or swamps although this practice isn’t always legal. If you decide to collect your own sphagnum moss, make sure you have permission before taking any from public or private property. It can also be gathered in certain areas of the wild where collection is allowed such as state parks.

To prepare sphagnum moss for planting, brush off as much dirt as possible without tearing the moss apart. It is easier to cut the compressed bricks of sphagnum moss with a knife before watering since it tends to expand quite a bit.

This type of peat does not need any fertilizer or lime added since it already contains all the nutrients that most plants need to survive. It doesn’t need a lot of sunlight, but it should be planted in an area that has dappled sunlight to medium shade. Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet.

Sphagnum moss can be used as a top dressing around plants or as a potting medium. It is not harmful to garden if it gets outside since it is a BRP, but should not be considered a substitute for commercial potting mixes.

Common Questions

Is sphagnum moss good for hydroponic growing?

Peat moss is most commonly used in container gardening since it retains moisture and provides nutrients for the plants. It can be used in hydroponic systems, but it tends to float leading to a buildup of acidic nutrients that can harm the roots. Sphagnum moss works best in ebb and flow or drip systems.

How should I condition sphagnum moss before planting?

Before adding sphagnum moss as a top dressing or potting medium, it needs to be conditioned first. This means that you need to wet it thoroughly before allowing it to slowly dry out. This process needs to be repeated three or four times until it is broken down and easier for the roots to uptake moisture and nutrients.

How can I get sphagnum moss stains off my hands?

Sphagnum moss can stain your hands if it is handled while it is damp. The best way to remove the stains is by rubbing your hands with sand. You can also use hand cleaner to remove the stains, but this is not recommended since it can dry out your skin.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful when you decide to start a terrarium or experiment with growing sphagnum moss in another way. Happy gardening!

Sources & references used in this article:

Method to produce substitute for peat moss by WE Bandurski – US Patent 5,501,718, 1996 – Google Patents

Method to produce a substitute for peat moss by WE Bandurski – US Patent 5,738,703, 1998 – Google Patents

Carbon nanosheet frameworks derived from peat moss as high performance sodium ion battery anodes by J Ding, H Wang, Z Li, A Kohandehghan, K Cui, Z Xu… – ACS …, 2013 – ACS Publications

Spent mushroom waste as a media replacement for peat moss in Kai-Lan (Brassica oleracea var. Alboglabra) production by H Sendi, MTM Mohamed, MP Anwar… – The Scientific World …, 2013 –

The suitability evaluation of lignocellulosic substrate as growing media substitute by JY Jung, JK Yang – African Journal of Biotechnology, 2014 –

Environmental inventory modelling of the use of compost and peat in growth media preparation by A Boldrin, KR Hartling, M Laugen… – … , Conservation and …, 2010 – Elsevier

Valuable applications for peat moss by S Taskila, R Särkelä, J Tanskanen – Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery, 2016 – Springer

Alternative to peat for Agaricus brasiliensis yield by NB Colauto, AR da Silveira, AF da Eira… – Bioresource Technology, 2010 – Elsevier



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