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Peat Moss - Sphagnum. Peat moss is a dark brown, fibrous material comprised of decomposed sphagnum moss and other living materials that have decayed. Not to be confused with sphagnum moss, peat moss is mostly used as an ingredient in potting soil or as a soil amendment. It can manage water very well and can absorb nutrients that would otherwise dissolve out of the ground. Peat moss can strengthen and improve the soil that it’s mixed with. It is highly absorbent and is excellent as a seed starter. However, it is not effective alone as a potting medium. Peat moss became accessible to farmers around the mid-1900s. Found in peat bogs, it takes many millennia for peat moss to form. Annually, peat bogs grow no more than a millimeter in depth which is the equivalent to about an inch over the course of 15 to 25 years. Peat moss is not considered a renewable resources because of the thousands of years it takes for the bogs to become mature. It is not regarded as sustainable because of how long it takes to produce, and there is much controversy surrounding it. Some consider the mining and over-harvesting of it to be harmful to the environment due to the carbon that is released into the atmosphere when it is gathered. Decomposition is a slow process with peat moss because it happens without air being present. Peat moss can be found in wetlands and peat bogs worldwide. It is considered a sterile planting medium because it does not have harmful weed seeds or any dangerous pathogens. It has an acidic ph which is ideal for plants such as blueberries who love acidic amendments. Peat moss does not compact like most organic materials. It is springy when saturated and will re-hydrate with ease. Peat moss will last for many years.
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Many layers of dead and living moss trap water and form peat bogs. The top layer is a luxurious, organic compound that is excellent for use in home gardens. This top coat is cut into long rolls that are dried and either cut down again into bales or broken down and bagged. When mixed with sandy soil, peat moss helps the soil retain moisture for more extended periods of time. Peat moss is more acidic than other types of compost, which makes it great for plants such as blueberries, roses, and hibiscus. It can be used anywhere and is handy for use as a seed starter because it naturally retains many nutrients needed for healthy seedlings. It also encourages robust root growth, making it an excellent choice to add to the soil of container plants. It is also useful for growing rare orchids, mushrooms, and carnivorous plants. Peat moss has been historically used to dress wounds during wartime and to help insulate houses in northern regions of the world.
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There are more than 350 species of sphagnum moss, which means that peat moss may vary from tan to dark brown to almost black. Like any other compost, it may be more or less crumbly depending on how long it has been allowed to age. Bagged peat moss tends to "fluff" more readily than the baled type. Some gardeners feel that the best peat moss is the "finely milled" and baled type while the least expensive, and more useful as potting soil filler, is usually labeled simply as "sphagnum peat moss."
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