Differences between Peat Moss and Compost

Compost & Soil
Peat Moss Vs Compost

Peat Moss and compost are sometimes seen as the same thing, but there are some notable differences. If you want to use one or the other in your garden, it is important to know about these differences. This is the only way to make an informed choice about what to use in your garden.

Here are the main differences between peat moss and compost:

Peat Moss vs Compost

Peat moss is widely available so gardeners can use it for various things. You can find quality peat moss at most garden centers or you may order it online. Simply look for quality sphagnum peat moss you can use in your garden.

Compost, on the other hand, is a great organic material you can use in your garden. You can even make it by yourself. Compost offers numerous advantages you get with peat moss, so it makes a good alternative to peat moss. Compost can improve the soil's water holding capacity and it's a great material for making your plants thrive. It is also a great source of nutrients for your plants.

Here is a quick breakdown of differences between peat moss and compost:

Peat moss is sterile, contains only a few microorganisms, has acidic pH values, prevents soil compaction and improves moisture retaining. It is also somewhat expensive and it contains only a few nutrients.

Compost, on the other hand, contains numerous microorganisms and it's rich in nutrients. It has neutral or slightly alkaline pH and it's usually free. The downside is that it may compact and it may contain certain weed seeds.

Why Not to Use Peat Moss?

While peat moss is a great material that can improve your gardening in many ways, there are two disadvantages: peat moss is expensive and it is not environmentally-friendly.

Peat moss tends to be expensive, though prices vary depending on the manufacturer. You can buy peat moss by the cubic foot or by the quart. Smaller packages are good for mixing smaller amounts of potting soil so they are ideal for those with smaller gardens or for container plants. If you wish to save on peat moss, it's best to buy a smaller bag.

Peat moss is not directly dangerous for the environment but it is not renewable. It takes thousands of years to create peat moss through biological processes. It is estimated that peat reserves grow about one millimeter per year. This is why production and harvesting of peat moss is strictly regulated. At the same time, this is a carbon-intensive process. Removing peat releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

If you are concerned about the price of peat moss or you have environmental concerns, it is best to use compost instead. Compost is great because it gives you the same benefits for you garden but it's cheap and completely renewable. It also provides an added benefit of reducing waste in your home. Think about this if you want to find a good replacement for peat moss.

Perhaps a good compromise is to use both peat moss and compost. Use small amounts of peat moss and add more compost to your mix. It is also advisable to use peat moss and not compost in certain situations. For example, peat moss works better as a seed starting medium because it never contains any weeds. Later, when your plants grow strong and tall, you may use compost to make them thrive.

Photo credit: Doug Beckers

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