Peat moss is a type of moss that is commonly used in gardening and horticulture. It’s known to be an excellent soil amendment and can be used to improve drainage, aeration, and water retention in soils.
It also helps regulate soil temperature, prevents evaporation, and suppresses weed growth while at the same time providing nutrients to the plants. However, peat moss can be quite expensive to purchase if you have large areas to cover.
So a lot of people are now looking for ways to make their own or find out if it’s even possible. Well, the good news is yes you can make your own peat moss! However, it’s not an easy task and it can take a while for the moss to break down into a usable form.
Does Peat Moss Grow Naturally?
Yes, peat moss does occur naturally and is an accumulation of decomposed moss that forms in bogs, swamps, and marshes. It’s composed of dead plant material, primarily mosses, that have been slow to decompose due to the acidic and anaerobic conditions of these environments.
However, peat moss needs to go through various stages before it can be used as a soil amendment.
In large areas where the moss is harvested, the bog or swamp is first drained of water. The surface vegetation is then removed using a rotary converter exposing the peat moss underneath.
Once all the vegetation and moister is removed a vacuum harvester is then used to collect all the peat moss which is then transported in large amounts to a factory for further processing.
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What Type Of Moss Is Used To Make Peat Moss?
When it comes to the type of moss, peat moss is actually sphagnum moss! That right! Sphagnum moss is the living moss that grows on the surface of the plant, while peat moss is the decomposing layer underneath the surface.
This is not hard to miss as the top layer of sphagnum moss is green and photosynthetic, while the dead plant material (peat moss) is brown and decaying.
Take Note: Peat moss and sphagnum moss are basically from the same plant! It’s just one is living, and one is dead. So there is only one type of moss that’s used to make peat moss and that’s sphagnum moss!
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How Long Does It Take To Make Peat Moss?
Peat moss is formed when sphagnum mosses or other plant matter accumulates in water-saturated environments. This means it can take several months or even up to a year to break down into a usable form.
However, the rate of decomposition depends on a number of factors, including moister, temperature, and humidity, In general, warmer temperatures and higher humidity levels will speed up the decomposition process.
For some, this may be too long to wait if you need it in the next week or two! if this is the case, your best option would be to purchase some and use the peat moss you grow for the following year.
If you’re patient enough, you can make your own peat moss at home just by following the steps laid out below.
Things Your Need
So now that you know a little bit more about peat moss, let’s get into how you can make your own. Of course, before you can start, you need to gather a few supplies first. For this project, you will need the following:
- Sphagnum moss
- Potting Container
- Digging Shovel (Optional)
- Water: When peat moss is harvested, a lot of the water is removed. It’s this water that causes the Sphagnum moss to decompose underneath. That’s why you find it in bogs, swamps, and marshes. All these places have an abundance of water.
- Sphagnum moss: As before, this is the type of moss that’s used to make peat moss. So your need a large amount of sphagnum moss “about a foot long” which then needs to be broken up into small pieces around 2 to 3 inches in size.
- Potting Container: The container will act as a holding place for the sphagnum moss and water mixture. It needs to be big enough that it can fit all the sphagnum moss with room to spare.
- Digging Shovel (Optional): If you don’t have a pot that is big enough to hold all the moss you can dig a hole in your garden. However, the size will depend on the amount of moss you have, for example, if you have two square feet of moss this will produce 20 square feet of growth.
How To Make Your Own Peat Moss?
Now that you have all the supplies, it’s time to start making your own peat moss. The process is pretty simple and only requires a few easy steps. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Find Some Sphagnum Moss
The first step is to find some sphagnum moss. If you live near a bog, swamp, or marsh, then this should be easy enough. Just make sure to get a good amount as you will need it later on.
If you can’t find any sphagnum moss or if you don’t live near any water sources, then your best bet would be to order it online from a gardening store or nursery.
2. Shave The Top Part Of The Moss
Once you have the sphagnum moss, you need to shave off the top part of it. This is the green layer that’s still alive, about 2 to 3 inches should do it.
To do this, you can use a sharp knife or scissors. Make sure to shave it down as close to the ground as possible.
3. Break Up The Moss Into Small Pieces
After you have shaved the moss, it’s time to break it up into small pieces. You want the pieces to be around one inch in size. Because the moss is very soft to break up this can be done by hand.
If the moss is too tough to tear, then you can soak it in water for a few minutes just to soften it up.
4. Put Compost Inside Container Or Hole
Now it’s time to put the compost inside the container or hole. If you’re using a pot, then fill it up about halfway with compost.
If you’re using a hole that you dug in the ground, then fill it up about three-quarters of the way. The reason for this is that the sphagnum moss will decompose and shrink over time.
5. Add Water To The Container Or Hole:
Now it’s time to add water to the container or hole. You want to add enough water so that the bottom of the sphagnum moss is completely submerged.
If you’re using a pot, then you can just place it under a faucet and let the water run until it’s filled up. If you’re using a hole, then you can use a hose or bucket to fill it up with water.
Taking Care Of Your Peat Moss
Now that you have your moss all setup, it’s important to know what the ideal conditions are for it.
- Peat moss needs a lot of water and moister: That’s why it’s often found in bogs, swamps, and marshes. If you live in an area with a dry climate, then you will need to water the moss more frequently.
- Another thing is the temperature: inside the container or hole. Peat moss likes it to be around 70 to 75°F degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s too cold, then the moss will go dormant and stop growing.
- You also need to consider light: This type of moss doesn’t need a lot of light but it does need some. So it’s a good idea the place the container or dig the hole in an area where it will get some indirect sunlight.
- Dry The Moss: Once you’ve left it for around 7 to 10 months, your peat moss should be ready to harvest. When you take out the moss you will need to drain all the water and make sure it’s completely dry. Once you achieved this the moss will be ready to use
Is It Sustainable?
Peat moss is a type of sphagnum moss that is often used as a growing medium for plants, and although it’s a renewable resource, unfortunately, it’s not sustainable.
It takes thousands of years for peat moss to develop, and once it is harvested, the bog from which it was taken cannot regenerate. As a result, the continued harvest of peat moss is not sustainable and is actually detrimental to the environment.
If you want to see how it’s harvested, below is a video from the youtube channel Berger (Les Tourbières Berger Ltée) there you can see exactly how it’s done!
So now you know how to make peat moss! Peat moss is a great addition to any garden and can be used in many different ways. However, if you only have a small garden your probably find it easy just to purchase a small bag rather than making your own.
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