How to Use Peat Moss

How to Use Peat Moss


For us to appreciate properly some of the normal things that happen in the garden, we should become acquainted with some of the physical garden conditions. One is that plants make most of their growth at night; when it is warm.  In early summer at night, in this area, we experience mostly cold or cool nights. A low temperature or a strike down of cold at night is usually a contributing factor in unsatisfactory plant growth. Cool air at night will draw much of the warmth from the soil. It also draws out moisture, which we find in the morning as dew. This combination of natural happenings, peculiar to this district, is responsible for many plant diseases like mildew. A mulch of peat moss around plants prevents much of this trouble by retaining both soil heat and soil moisture.

After the young plants of some flowers and vegetables have been set outside, a period of cold nights will give them quite a set back. These heat loving plants, such as Zinnia, Tomato, Dahlia, Melon, Canna, Petunia and Portulaca, can be given an excellent assist by mulching with peat moss and lightly covering them at night with newspaper or plastic. The cover must be removed early in the morning. Watering plants with warm water is another great assist which can only be proven by trying it.


It is a correct garden practice to mulch Azaleas, Rhododendrons and other shallow-rooted shrubs during the summer. Peat moss is the best mulch material to use to keep the plants’ root area moist and cool. The soil area should be carefully stirred up before the blanket of wet peat moss is applied. Take care to apply it in a saucer fashion. Highest end point should be just at the “circle of drip”. Never allow any earth material to touch the bark, which nature intended to live above ground or the bark and cambium beneath will rot and the plant may die.


If you garden soil is at all liable to dry out during the summer, it is a good plan to prepare to take care of this at once. Sphagnum peat moss, the garden kind, is a light brown fluffy material that acts in the same manner as a sponge in the way it holds water. It is recommended that the peat moss be mixed in with the good garden soil right now. Well mixed, its effect is to retain a large amount of water in the soil, near the roots t the dry time when plants need much more water than is provided naturally. Peat moss, mixed in the soil, will retain much of the water you apply when sprinkling and prevent its waste be seepage and evaporation.


For the past years, more and more gardeners have been using the granular pressed from of peat moss that can be readily applied to the lawn in all types of fertilizer spreaders. This new method of using peat moss provides the same high grade, sponge like, sun dried sphagnum moss. The only difference from the good baled peat moss is that it has been greatly compressed. It is packed in sacks of various sizes that are quite clean and easy to handle. They can be carried home in your car without any chance of soiling your interior. In the pressing process, pressure is applied to drive out the air and water and this leaves compact, solid granules which are clean to handle and apply.

The pressing does not affect the physical structure of the peat moss itself. As soon as the water is soaked in it expands quickly to five to eight times in bulk. In so doing, it regains its valuable sponge-like properties of absorbing and retaining water. The granules, when applied evenly to a lawn with a fertilizer distributer or by hand, being heavy, settle at the grass roots level and stay there. As soon as it rains or water is sprinkled on the lawn after application, the granules rapidly swell up around the lower stems of the grass and form a wet, sponge-like blanket right at the ground level. This will hold an ample supply of water in the summer where the grass plants need it, at their base, to keep the grass even.


One of the chief functions of peat moss, when it is mixed thoroughly with the garden soil, is its ability to absorb and store the soil moisture in that part of the soil where the plants’ roots are growing. In so doing, it retains the water in which is contained the valuable mineral plant foods that are so necessary to the growth, health and vitality of the garden plants. Peat moss or other humus as the effect of providing a reservoir of soil moisture which, being always readily available, will prevent the plants from suffering from lack of moisture during the time when most gardens would suffer from drought. This one action could be described as similar to that of a sponge. It also increased access of air to the soil. This is necessary for the growth of cultivated plants, since their roots, as well as other parts, must carry on respiration in order to live. This lightening of the soil by pushing the mineral particles apart enables the roots to penetrate more readily and spread normally. Some soils in improper physical conditions are hard when dry and sticky when wet. Neither condition is proper for plant life. Organic matter in the proper stage of decomposition transforms such soils into light, loose loam which permits free passage of air, moisture and plant roots. Anyone who has ever attempted to grow plants knows that hard soil is a poor medium.

Some gardeners dig, hoe and break lumps- believing that soil which has been pulverized often enough will be loose and moisture holding. Then comes the rain and the ground becomes muddy. Later the sun shines and the muddy soil cracks, hardens and seals up the roots of the plants so they cannot reach out in search of moisture and food. Then they try to pulverize the soil again, but this time they can’t work close to the plants without disturbing the intimate contact of roots and soil, or possibly breaking the delicate root hairs. Another type of poor soil is pure sand and gravel. This type of soil permits free passage of air moisture and plants roots, but unless there is something there to absorb and hold moisture, it passes so freely that there is none left to supply the needs of the plant. When moisture passes to freely, plant food elements go with it, wasting a large part of the fertility which probably has been applied at considerable expense. Nature has supplied the remedy for this in vegetable and organic matter. Soil that naturally hardens when devoid of this material is changed completely when supplied with organic soil matter. The stickiest clay is transformed into fine loam. This same material acts as a sponge in sand or gravel to hold the moisture. By the application of peat moss to any poor soil, the mechanical condition is changed so that t can function naturally in allowing plants to grow well.

Horticordially yours,

Cecil Solly

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3 Responses to How to Use Peat Moss

  1. Trish Edwards 2013-07-04 at 2:40 AM #

    Thank you for your informative article on peat moss. I have been researching this topic and have read that it is recommended that spaghnum moss be mixed with lime before using it as mulch. Could you please share your thoughts on this suggestion?

  2. Cristina Marble 2014-03-04 at 8:51 PM #

    I never get why people say plants grow the most at night, plants grow using photosynthesis which can only take place during the day. Plants may appear to grow at night because their leaves perk up searching for light. All science aside, it is not only practical but good practice to have 18 hours or more of light for indoor growing during a plants vegetative state, personally while growing indoors my plants get light for about 2 months straight before I even think about turning the light off

  3. afsar mehtab 2015-04-05 at 6:36 PM #

    i just want to know if sphagnum peat moss carrying any kind of fertilizers. I am using green grass clippers with my raise bed soil, is this is a good idea? thanks

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