Sphagnum Moss vs. Peat Moss: How do you tell the difference?

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Sphagnum Moss vs. Peat Moss

By drdawg
July 27, 2014

If there ever is confusion concerning plant products, interpreting the labeling of sphagnum moss and peat moss is high on the list.

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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jul 26, 2014 9:00 PM CST
Ken, if they can both be labeled "sphagnum peat moss," how do you tell which you actually got? I bought a bale of "sphagnum peat moss" to replant my poor blueberry plants in (I originally planted 5 bushes last year and this spring, although they managed to survive our bad winter, they were very chlorotic so I went for some fairly desperate measures); now I'm wondering -- especially since the plants don't look all that much different yet -- what I actually bought. (It looked pretty much like compost, if that helps at all... and I think the packaging did say that it came from Canada) Confused
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 6:49 AM CST
Great question but not a great answer is available. If the "bale" was compressed into a solid cube, it was peat. If the material was in a typical bag such as potting soil, and was loose and fluffy, it was sphagnum. The source is no help since both sphagnum and peat come from Canada. You'll also see it from Peru and New Zealand/Australia. I have never seen sphagnum from Europe, though Scotland and Ireland produces tons of the stuff.

It seems that every big-box store carries those peat bales but few seem to have milled sphagnum. The only producer of milled sphagnum that I know of is Miracle-Gro. Miracle-Gro used to supply it in 3 cf bags but now it comes in 2 cf bags and there is slow-release fertilizer added to this new material. Before, the milled sphagnum made a great starter (non-soil) material for seeds and for rooting, but now with the fertilizer added, I don't know if it still would be good for those purposes.

The baled peat should be great for your blue-berries. The easiest way to use it is to soak it in water. It will expand and become workable.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Jul 27, 2014 7:24 AM CST
Thanks, Ken -- I feel pretty comfortable with the fact that it was actually "peat" that I bought, it was definitely compressed and weighed only slightly less than a ton even when it was dry! I cut an opening in the top of the plastic and stuck the hose in to add some water and let it sit for a couple of days to absorb it before I used it to re-do the blueberries, along with some of my own compost and some sulfur and rock phosphate (all recommended on a couple of sites that described how to amend soil for growing blueberries). Guess I should have read that before I put the plants in last year *Blush* In my own defense (at least sort of), I thought they would grow here without needing anything special, there are so many wild blueberries in the UP. I'm not at all sure they're going to recover, although I keep trying to convince myself that they look a little better (and at least they haven't died yet); plan B will be to pull them out and plant strawberries in that area! Whistling
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 7:39 AM CST
Blueberry plants like to have moist soil but don't like to sit in water. You want to be sure your soil will drain well but at the same time retaining moisture. That equation can be tricky.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Jul 27, 2014 10:02 AM CST
Another difference - Sphagnum moss can carry the Sporotrichosis fungus; precaution should be taken when handling this product. This fungus is not usually present in the peat moss.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 10:25 AM CST
Humm, precaution such as what?
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Jul 27, 2014 10:27 AM CST
Read the label, sir.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 10:31 AM CST
I have never seen a "warning" label on sphagnum moss, Greene. Please give me a clue. *Blush*
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Jul 27, 2014 10:59 AM CST
Scroll down this page to Health Dangers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphagnum

I have a bag of Better-Gro Premium Grade Orchid Sphagnum Moss and the only warning is on the reverse side of the bag where it states:

~ Caution: Wear gloves while working with any organic potting media.

edited to add: I've seen such warnings on other brands of Sphagnum I've purchased in the past too but don't remember exactly what it said.
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
[Last edited by plantladylin - Jul 27, 2014 11:01 AM (+)]
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 11:10 AM CST
I buy it by the 4 cf. bag. I will have to check and see what warning there is. I did do a bit of (quick) research, and I see that this fungus occurs in soil, hay, barbed wire, pine needles, and thorns (particular rose thorns). In other words, it is just about everywhere. The occurrence rate is 1-2 per million people. Therefore one is much more likely to be injured when crossing the road or killed by lightening than by this fungus. It appears this is just part of the liability craze thrust upon us by our lawyer friends. Whistling
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Weedwhacker
Jul 27, 2014 11:15 AM CST
One more thing to worry about! Glare
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Jul 27, 2014 11:19 AM CST
Ken ... I've used the Long Fiber Sphagnum many times over the past 30+ years and never read the package .... I think I happened on the information about the cautions from an on-line source a few years ago. I don't usually have my gloves on when I'm working with Sphagnum because I like to dunk it in the water and wring it out with my bare hands; I also don't like my gloves to be wet if I'm going to be working in the soil too. So far I've never had a problem ... maybe those fungal spores just don't like me. Green Grin!
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 11:25 AM CST
Yep, just what I need. I wore latex gloves for forty years and now am told I need to wear them again. Sticking tongue out I need to buy stock in glove companies. Whistling
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Jul 27, 2014 11:55 AM CST
LOL, I use disposable latex gloves in the kitchen sometimes but whenever I've tried using them while working with plants the finger tips quickly get holes in them from my fingernails. Many follks are allergic to latex and I find my hands itching badly when I remove the gloves but I immediately wash my hands and there's no problem.
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 12:00 PM CST
You are either allergic to latex (more probable) or to the cornstarch, Lin. Many gloves have the cornstarch in them to make it easier to put the gloves on. Cornstarch kind of acts like a lubricant. Switch to vinyl gloves. Not only will you not have a reaction to them, they are tougher and more tear-resistant. However, since vinyl won't stretch like latex does, you want to get a size larger than normal.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Jul 27, 2014 12:07 PM CST
Thanks Ken ... I will have to get some vinyl gloves to try!
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
Image
drdawg
Jul 27, 2014 12:16 PM CST
You will love them, Lin!
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Jul 27, 2014 12:24 PM CST
Thank You!
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jul 27, 2014 1:53 PM CST
Lin - I had to switch from using sphagnum/peat moss to using pine fines in my ground soil (and also potted plants). Because of the heat and sand here in FL, the sphagnum dries out quickly and when it rehydrates (through watering or brief rain), it tends to pull much of the moisture from the surrounding soil and plant roots. I kept losing plants to wilt and couldn't figure out why until a local nursery explain it to me and suggested the pine fines instead. Something to think about if you live where the soil is sandy.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Jul 27, 2014 2:02 PM CST
Becky, I have a bag in the garage that's been around a long time. I don't use it at all anymore ... because it tends to harden like cement. Sad Where do you get Pine fines?
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~

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