Spaghnum peat moss, often simplified to peat moss is a very common growing media in the horticultural trade. It is used in a range of growing applications including nursery plants, as a soil additive, compost ingredient, and pH modifier.
Botanically peat moss is a genus of 120 varieties of mosses that grow in dense masses on boggy grounds. The large cell structure of the peat enables it to absorb air and water, similar to a sponge. Peat is harvested and compressed into bales for ease of transportation. During the harvesting process, sphagnum moss refers to the living moss that floats on the top of the bog. When this moss dies, it falls to the bottom and is called sphagnum peat.
In 1999, Canada ranked second in the global production of horticultural peat at around 22% of the global horticultural peat market, behind Germany. Canada also has 25% of the world’s acreage of peat land. (Source: http://www.peatmoss.com/)
In the garden, peat is most commonly used around acid loving plants like blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons. It is a very lightweight material, and has a tendency to blow away if applied on a windy day or allowed to dry out on the surface of the soil. For that reason, it is often mixed with other ingredients as it also provides very little, if any nutrition to the plants.
Cover Image by Joshua Mayer, used under its Creative Commons license.