Peat moss is one of the most popular soil additives for many gardeners today. It’s an excellent garden supplement that can amend soil acidity, preserve essential nutrients and drainage systems, and it lasts an exceptionally long time compared to other soil additives. So should you be using peat moss in your vegetable garden?
You should use peat moss in your vegetable garden if the vegetables you’re growing like acidic soils. Additionally, using peat moss in your garden is a good option if your soil is clay-based since it breaks it down to form better aeration systems for the roots of your plants.
The rest of this article will discuss how peat moss can help your garden soil flourish and which vegetables grow well with peat moss. We’ll also go through the vegetables that prefer a more alkaline soil, how much peat moss you should use in your topsoil, and whether peat moss is considered a sustainable garden additive.
Do Vegetables Grow Well With Peat Moss?
Peat moss is well-known for its capacity for moisture retention, enhancing aeration systems in the soil, and improving soil that has become too compacted for plant growth. Peat moss is naturally porous, so it can retain water well and keep all those essential nutrients in the soil for longer, giving your plant roots a better chance of long-term survival.
Since it keeps water and nutrients in the soil for longer, using peat moss as a soil additive in a vegetable garden will allow you to change how you water your plants. You won’t need to water them as frequently – as long as you water them deeply enough to reach appropriate depths in the soil.
Although peat moss doesn’t have any nutritional benefits, it changes the nature of the soil to create a better environment for plant roots to thrive. Many vegetables love soil with added peat moss, especially if they favor more acidic conditions.
If the soil in your vegetable garden is parched and doesn’t retain nutrients well, adding peat moss will change the soil to make it more viable for vegetable roots that need consistent moisture levels. Since peat moss changes the pH of the earth to become more acidic, plants that have fruits will thrive on the extra acidity and moisture.
Digging peat moss into a moderate depth in the soil will also keep roots from moving. Roots will be adequately covered, and they’ll thrive much better. Adding peat moss will also energize those roots and push them to grow deeper into the soil.
Plants that love soils with a lower pH are known as ericaceous plants. Most often, these plants grow with little fruits – such as blueberries.
Finally, peat moss is an excellent choice for vegetable gardens because of its longevity. It lasts an extraordinarily long time compared to other soil additives and doesn’t contain any harmful weeds or bacteria that can be detrimental to the soil.
Which Vegetables Will Thrive on Peat Moss?
As mentioned, some vegetables love peat moss – while others aren’t big fans and need a more alkaline-based soil to thrive. So which vegetables in your garden will thrive on peat moss?
The vegetables that prefer peat moss over other additives include the following:
The above vegetables prefer more acidic soil, so peat moss is a good option if your soil is too alkaline for their taste. It will amend the pH of the soil so these vegetables will be able to thrive.
Which Vegetables Don’t Grow Well With Peat Moss?
The alkaline-loving vegetables won’t do too well with peat moss – especially if there are large amounts of it. Large amounts of peat moss will amend the soil too much and become too acidic for certain plants and vegetables.
The following vegetables prefer a more alkaline-based soil:
- Mustard Greens
- Runner beans
If you’re growing these vegetables in your garden, you will likely need a more neutral or slightly alkaline soil. In this case, using peat moss isn’t advised since the roots won’t grow properly, and you’ll end up with very sad vegetables.
How Much Peat Moss Should You Use in Your Vegetable Garden?
If you’ve decided your vegetables need more acidic soil, then the next step is figuring out how much peat moss you should use for optimal results.
You can quickly figure out how much peat moss you’ll need using square footage. Since peat moss often comes in big bags or bales, you can just look at the packet and see the square footage it will cover.
Your soil should be a mixture of peat moss, natural garden soil, and compost or another soil additive that contains organic materials. Using this system, your vegetables will thrive. It’s essential to include some organic matter because peat moss itself doesn’t contain any nutrients for plants and only adjusts the nature of your garden soil.
On the other hand, organic matter such as compost will give your vegetables extra nutrients and encourage natural biological processes in the soil.
If the vegetables you’re growing don’t need lots of moisture to survive, you can use less peat moss in the mixture.
How To Mix Peat Moss Into Topsoil for Best Results
The best way to mix up the three materials is through the following process:
- In a large container, mix your peat moss with water. Leave it for a few hours to soak up as much moisture as possible.
- Wring out the peat moss when enough time has passed. It’s now ready to mix into your topsoil.
- Mix together equal parts peat moss and organic material such as compost or wood chip mulch. This will ensure equal distribution of nutrients.
- Hand till the topsoil until it has broken down a bit. This is especially important if your soil is very compact and clay-based. You can use your fingers if you don’t have a hand-tiller.
- In the top few inches of soil, mix up the topsoil and the peat moss and compost blend. You can use your hand-tiller to make this process faster and more efficient, but if you don’t have one, just gently work all the materials into the soil until everything is homogenous.
- Finally, use some fertilizer to lightly spritz the soil. Evenly distribute the fertilizer for best results.
This process doesn’t take too long, and your soil will be thriving before you know it. If you want your vegetables to flourish, add some worm castings along with the organic matter.
Is Peat Moss Considered Sustainable?
Although peat moss is exceedingly popular for many gardeners, unfortunately, it is not considered sustainable. Peat moss comes from peat bogs – the majority of which are located in North America – and these peat bogs are essential ecosystems that help to boost the environment using carbon stores.
Peat bogs are also used as nesting grounds for birds and other wildlife, so harvesting peat moss effectively destroys their habitat.
Peat bogs are often called wetlands. Irresponsible use of these regions has led to their destruction – contributing to global warming and reducing the number of viable wetlands which are essential for animal and plant life.
Although peat moss isn’t considered particularly sustainable, you can still use it – just be mindful of how much you’re using since it’s not a renewable resource. Additionally, peat moss can be relatively expensive because of the harvesting process, so you may want to consider other soil additives anyway.
Alternatives to Peat Moss for Your Vegetable Garden
You can easily use other soil additives such as compost or wood chip mulch if you don’t need very acidic soil. Additionally, worm castings are an excellent natural alternative, and although they won’t amend the soil, they will create tiny aeration tunnels perfect for drainage and adequate nutrient retention.
The best alternative to peat moss, however, is biochar. Biochar is an organic substance that has gone through a carbonization process. This process can be done with any organic matter, and it’s a cheap manufacturing process to boot.
Additionally, biochar promotes the growth of healthy microbes within the soil, giving your vegetable roots a health boost along the way.
Biochar shares one fundamental characteristic with peat moss: it doesn’t break down easily, so it lasts an exceptionally long time. This makes it a super sustainable soil additive that will supplement your vegetable garden and improve the soil.
You can use peat moss in your vegetable garden if the plants are acid-loving and prefer soils with a lower pH. However, if the vegetables prefer more neutral or alkaline soils, it’s best to find another alternative.
Peat moss isn’t considered particularly sustainable, and there are plenty of other, cheaper alternatives out there. These include biochar, which is a much more sustainable option and won’t have such an impact on the environment. It’s essential to consider how sustainable your gardening practices are since we are all responsible for being mindful of how we use crucial resources.