However, clay soils already have naturally-high CEC values, and therefore peat moss doesn’t have a significant impact. Additionally, compost encourages the presence of earthworms that further improve the soil by aerating it and digesting decomposing organic matter to produce nutrient-rich castings. Sydney has over 15 years of experience in lawn maintenance, landscape design, and organic gardening. Organic matter generally lowers pH, so consistent compost and peat moss amendments can lower pH gradually over time. Sand is generally acidic and suffers from poor water holding capacity. Some people are confused whether peat moss and compost are the same. Clay soils are naturally alkaline, but plants prefer acidic environments. Peat moss is generally recommended for alkaline soils as a way to lower pH. Peat moss is mined by surface harvesting from bogs in Canada and the northern United States. You can use a handheld aerator to work around large shrub roots and flower beds. This leads to clay soils that either shed water and are always dry or soils that are constantly waterlogged and slippery. However, peat moss only has mild, temporary effects on pH. Organic gardeners frequently use a variety of soil amendments to help plants grow. Sphagnum moss grows in bogs. Wondering if that bag of Peat Moss in your garage is still good to use? Compost made primarily from plant products tends to be low in salt. Both peat moss and composts hold water, although peat moss tends to be better. Peat moss forms when mosses and other living material rot in peat bogs. Thriving Yard is a privately owned website. When selecting an amendment, gardeners should look at soil texture, how long the amendment will last, soil salinity and pH, and the ability and need to absorb water. Learn more about soil alkalinity here. It will take consistent applications over a few years before the structure is noticeably improved. It is sold in compressed bales and is labeled either sphagnum peat moss or peat moss. Peat moss helps encourage fungi on the roots that enable the plants to grow. If peat is used in conjunction with compost applications, a 1-2-3-2-1 irrigation schedule (source), and annual aeration, it will help the overall health and structure of the soil. Aside from the mentioned tasks, peat moss also improves the consistency and texture of the soil. Clay soil is difficult to manage. Click here to see the deals! It is best to till and amend bare soil late in the fall before the ground freezes. Examples provided of tested products are actual products owned, tested, and used regularly by the author. Peat moss helps improve the cation-exchange-capacity of soils, which helps retain nutrients. Peat moss is sold in bales at most hardware stores and nurseries. The pH of a soil is the product of its environment. Essentially, peat moss helps trap and hold nutrients so they aren’t lost due to irrigation. The peat moss that we buy is generally sourced from Canada, so harvests must be shipped from there, which increases the cost exponentially. It does not improve pH, but it will improve porosity, which is the major issue facing homeowners with clay soils. For more information on improving clay soils, visit our articles on in-ground composting, soil preparation, and understanding alkalinity. However, it also increases the amount of water and nutrients clay will hold, which can cause root rots and nutrient toxicities. Compost is the best soil amendment and should be the primary focus in improving clay soil. However, they serve different purposes and are not interchangeable. Adding peat moss to your soil may help lower the pH of naturally-acidic soil, but it will have difficulty overcoming naturally-alkaline soil A better amendment for lowering pH is sulfur. Peat moss is a bit more expensive than compost, especially if you are making your own compost, or purchasing it from a local source. Many nutrients are positively-charged ions. The most common problem with clay soil is overwatering, and peat should help with drainage over time.