Peat Moss As Soil Amendment
A good amendment to stretch out a limited supply of organic materials is Canadian spaghnum peat moss. A rich brown in color, it has a light, soft, fibrous, spongy texture. It is a clean, natural, and organic substance that is free of harmful salts, chemicals, or weed seeds. A plant product, it is biodegradable.
Decomposing sphagnum peat moss plants are found mostly in extensive bogs in the very cold, wet regions of Canada. Dating back to the Ice Age, sphagnum moss was one of the first plants to grow on land as the glaciers receded. Over the centuries layers of very gradually decomposing moss have accumulated at these sites. Today this wonderful material is harvested and made available for a wide variety of uses in residential yards and gardens.
Sphagnum peat moss is so versatile because of its basic structure. Like compost, it is highly water retentive, absorbing from 12 to 20 times its weight in liquid. At the same time it is very porous. Even when thoroughly wet it still has 15% air space. This permits excellent exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which benefits plants of all kinds. Added to lawn and garden soil, peat moss helps it to achieve the deal mentioned earlier in this chapter--simultaneously well draining and moisture holding. Because it is slow to fully decompose in the soil, about a year in the South and two years in the North, its benefits are long-lasting. However, like other organic soil enhancers, peat moss decomposes faster in sandy soils than in clay soils. It is quite acidic, its pH typically ranging from 3.4 to 4.8. A soil conditioner only, peat moss adds little nutritive value to soil. Fertilize soil enhanced with sphagnum peat moss according to normal practice.
Since peat moss is more acidic than home made compost, it needs to have some lime added if it is being used as a general soil amendment. Use about 5-10 pounds of powdered or granulated lime per bale of peat moss. That amounts to roughly a couple of coffee cans full of line to about 8 cubic feet of peat moss.
Make Fake Compost - To formulate a product that serves as an excellent compost substitute, mix Canadian spaghnum peat moss and processed dried cow manure, which can be purchased at most garden centers. A four cubic foot bale of peat moss mixed with one or two 50-pound bags of processed cow manure yields a material that offer most of the benefits of homemade compost. Peat moss also makes an excellent compost extender when mixed with municipal composted sludge. Mix peat moss with composted municipal sludge about 3 to 1 for a superior organic soil amending material.
Moistening Peat Moss--Peat moss is best spread on the lawn or garden bed as it comes out of the package, dry and fluffy. However, for use as mulch or for planting, it is preferable to moisten the peat first. Wetting peat moss can be difficult. For quick results, punch a hole in the plastic wrapper on the bale and push a stick down half way into its center. Pour a bucket of hot water into the hole to promote absorption by the peat moss. After about 20 minutes, stick a hose into the hole turned on to a slow trickle. Within an hour most of the contents of the bale will be moistened. An alternative for people who are really organized is to break open a bale a few days before it is to be used and set it out in the rain.
Storing Leftovers--Store the unused portion of a bale of peat moss in a large plastic trash can with a tight lid. If the peat moss is moist, it will stay moist. If it is dry, it will stay dry.