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Peat moss on lawn question

                                  


Joined: Aug 19, 2007
Posts: 6
Location: Chicagoland area
I have been using peat moss and new top soil to bring an old flower/shrub area back to life for fresh plantings this upcoming spring in Chicagoland...  on the bag of peat moss, they flat out state that spreading it across the lawn and raking it in will improve the soil and grass.  I did this just the other day.

Logically, this seemed fine to me.  As rain and whatnot comes down this fall, that peat would work its way down into the soil and improve moisture retention and aeration.  However...

I was clicking thru your site and just noticed a small blurb about peat moss doing funky things when put on a lawn...  Can you elaborate?

Have I made a catastrophic mistake??  I just went through loads of work getting the grass healthier, going to an organic fertilizer system, etc...  I even got my mushrooms under control. 

No, I have not gotten the ph tested yet.  The dirt/soil is a few inches deep.  There is some clay, but I have also found worms.  I'm supposed to get everything aerated soon.  It really has been on the right track lately.  Please advise.  Now I am doubting my most recent action.  Thanks...
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14949
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Peat moss has several good properties and several icky properties. 

On the upside - pure organic matter.  The silver bullet for most soils!

The first downside: freaky low pH of 4.5.  Since the pH scale is logarithmic, that means that peat moss is 10 times more acidic than something with a pH of 5.5 and 100 times more acidic than soil with a pH of 6.5 - which is the optimal pH for grass.  So you have some stuff that is so acidic, in large enough quantities you could classify it as toxic.

The next downside:  when peat moss gets dry, it really likes to stay dry.  It does a great job of repelling water.  If you put enough down, it sort of makes this water repelling mat. 

You mentioned earthworms:  soil surfaces tend to get slightly acidic.  Putting a dusting of lime on the soil surface has shown to improve earthworm populations.  Putting peat moss on the surface does the opposite.

I think if you dust the surface with a lime, you should end up in a better space.





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Joined: Aug 19, 2007
Posts: 6
Location: Chicagoland area
Doh!  Those stupid manufacturers and their all happy sunshine info on the labels...  Of course they are not going to tell about any downsides, 'cuz that won't sell more peat moss!

So, a general blurb about peat moss would be:
Great IN the soil, not so great ON the soil... right??

So I should water it in and dust w/ lime then....

So how come I have read on many websites about the values and virtues of peat moss spread on top of lawns?  Just google 'peat moss on lawn' and there are copious amounts of advice like that....  I'm just lashing out because this chaps my *** after doing everything I have done so far...  I am genuinely mad now.  Buyer beware, I guess.  Thanks Paul...
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14949
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm not even sure if I would endorse that it is great in the soil. 

It is good/bad in the soil.

It is good/bad on the soil.

So I should water it in and dust w/ lime then....


Well, the lime would be good. 

How much did you put down?

So how come I have read on many websites about the values and virtues of peat moss spread on top of lawns?  Just google 'peat moss on lawn' and there are copious amounts of advice like that....  I'm just lashing out because this chaps my *** after doing everything I have done so far...  I am genuinely mad now.  Buyer beware, I guess.


I think if they came over here they might say I'm crazy. 

Here's the deal:  how much do any of us really know about anything.  Should we allow only the folks with a nobel prize write on stuff? 

Those folks are trying to improve their OM ratio for their soil.  A noble goal.  Peat moss is almost pure OM.  So they write a page advocating it.  They just are not yet aware of the downsides.

Hell, my own web page about cast iron once said "don't use soap!" and later I learned that was wrong.  D'oh!

Even the pages that feature the double blind studies are not that reliable. 

Be skeptical.  Make the best of it.



                              


Joined: Dec 17, 2007
Posts: 12
Peat moss. Good luck with that.

I purchased my home several years ago and I am still dealing with the previous (original) owner's misguided gardening techniques.

It is reported to rain all day, every day here in Western Washington.  Well, that is execpt for the 6 or so weeks in the summer which we get no rain whatsoever.

Wherever peat was amended into garden beds, the dirt would dry to the finest dusty mess which would not take to watering. Water would simply bead up and roll off the top. Some beds she amended with wood ash and peat. It was much worse there.  The only way I could work water into the beds was to stir the water in (reminiscent of mud-pies) so it would take. Eventually I set up some drip irrigation and kept the soil wet, covering it with mulch.

I have resigned to planting arid climate plants in the worst of the beds: Mexican Orange, Yucca, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, and the like. I have better things to do than poke a stick into mud. The kids next door were getting jealous anyway.

I can't say I have observed much earthworm activity in the beds amended with peat. Probably because it dries so badly. I have seen some of my planting beds and some lawn dry to a caked mud consistancy which would not take water until the fall rainy season.

Earthworm activity is a great  indicator of the health of the soil/dirt. The toxins, which the previous owner used, killed much of the beneficials in the soil at my home. It is a work in progress.

Silverdale Slug

 
 
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