Can You Use Peat Moss to Grow Vegetables?

Peat moss from bogs has helped many gardens throughout the years, providing aeration to compacted soil and bringing organic compounds to those gardens. 

While peat moss isn’t nutrient-rich and therefore isn’t ideal for use as soil by itself, its organic material can bring some fertilizing qualities to your garden.

In this article, we’ll look at some plants that prefer the kind of soil that peat moss can help create, those that might not like it all that much, and how to use peat moss in your gardens— vegetable or otherwise.

Pile of peat moss in a garden

Should I Put Peat Moss in My Vegetable Garden?

Yes, you should use peat moss in most cases if you can. Peat moss can be an excellent soil amendment, and because of the way it forms, it is a soil additive that will not introduce weeds into your vegetable garden.

Peat moss forms over thousands of years as plant material underwater in bogs compacts and decays. The resulting soil is known as peat moss, and since those materials have been compacting for centuries, no weed seeds survive in it.

Compare this to, say, using horse manure as fertilizer. It works great, but if the horses feed on any weeds, there’s an excellent chance that some seeds will reside in the manure, so you’ve not only dropped weeds into your garden, but you’ve fertilized them really well.

Because peat moss has a somewhat fluffy consistency when it’s added to soil, it can help keep that soil from becoming hard-packed, and it can help with drainage.

Finally, peat moss can act as a mulch, helping to hold water in the soil longer than it might remain under the hot sun.

Can You Grow Directly in Peat Moss?

Generally speaking, you cannot grow vegetables or other plants in peat moss alone. While it resembles soil and consists of organic materials, the medium has too few nutrients to sustain a plant.

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While adding fertilizer might help, a better long-term solution is to add peat moss to existing soil. This will also be more cost-effective, as peat moss is pricier than soil. Using peat moss alone could get expensive quickly, and then you’d still not have a particularly fertile bed.

Is Peat Moss Good for Tomato Plants?

Tomatoes can benefit greatly from the use of peat moss. Tomatoes are fruits, so, like grapes, their flavors are heavily influenced by the soil in which they grow. Having rich, loamy soil for your tomato plants will help them grow tasty and juicy.

Also, peat moss can help your plants’ root systems stay hydrated. Even if your watering schedule provides enough water for the plants, you’ll start seeing cracks in the fruit and wilting leaves if the roots dry out.

Peat moss, by holding water in the soil, will also keep your tomato plants’ roots from showing, something that occurs when you do not water them deeply enough. Soil amended with peat moss will help encourage those roots to grow deeper into the ground.

Green peat moss close up

How Do I Add Peat Moss to My Vegetable Garden?

Adding peat moss is simple, though it can be labor-intensive. One method involves digging in the soil, and an easier process happens as you plant.

Digging in your garden to add peat moss means taking these steps:

  • Using a shovel, dig down to about 12 inches, turning the soil over.
  • Alternatively, use a tiller, also down to about 12 inches deep.
  • Once that’s done, you’ve aerated and loosened your soil, which is excellent even if you’re not adding anything to it.
  • Add peat moss to the loosened soil, going for a planting medium mix of about two-thirds soil and one-third peat moss.
  • Finally, add a layer of a few inches of peat over the top of the amended soil.

Adding peat moss without digging a foot into the ground is easy if you use peat containers. Many nurseries sell their plants in containers formed from compressed peat moss, so you can simply plant the whole container in the ground, adding peat moss along with the plant.

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What Vegetables Do Not Like Peat Moss?

Plants that prefer more alkaline soil don’t do well with peat moss. These include cauliflower, garlic, asparagus, spinach, many gourds, and others.

Peat moss’s problem is that it is acidic, and as your soil’s pH level gets lower (meaning the soil becomes more acidic), vegetables like these begin faring poorly.

What Plants Like Peat Moss?

The list of plants that like more acidic soil and would do well with peat moss is a long one and includes many types of trees, flowers, and shrubs. A shortlist of these many plants includes:

  • Azaleas 
  • Beech trees 
  • Begonias 
  • Caladium 
  • Dogwood trees 
  • Gardenias 
  • Holly 
  • Hydrangea 
  • Oak trees 
  • Rhododendrons 
  • Willow trees 

What Vegetables Like Peat Moss?

Some veggies like acidic soil, and some tolerate it. Corn and carrots fall into the latter group, while potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes, and parsley really like low-pH soil, so peat moss would benefit them well.

Again, peat moss decreases soil’s pH level, making it more acidic, so if you use peat moss in your vegetable garden, you’ll want to monitor those levels.

One easy (and pretty) way to do that is by planting the previously mentioned hydrangea. Your hydrangea blooms will be bright blue when your pH levels are low. As your soil becomes less acidic, the blooms grow in pink.

Sure, you could send soil samples away for testing, but a hydrangea will accurately tell you how acidic or alkaline your soil is.

What To Do With Leftover Peat Moss

Don’t throw leftover peat moss away. It will do no good in a handful.

Instead, consider adding it to your compost pile. Since it’s organic material but not meat or dairy, it’s perfect for augmenting your composting efforts. Another option is to spread leftover peat moss over your lawn, especially as fall approaches.

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Your grass can use the extra insulation as the weather cools, and the organic, mulching nature of the peat moss can help keep your grass healthy.

Peat Moss in Container Gardening

Peat moss makes a good soil amendment for most plants you may consider growing. Whether in a flowerbed or containers on or around your porch, loamy, acidic soil can be an excellent tool for growing vegetables and other plants.

For your container garden, mix your potting soil and peat moss into a 2:1 mixture, then fill the containers with them. The resulting growth medium will be rich, non-compacted earth, so your plants’ roots will have nutrients aplenty and soil that allow those roots to grow and spread.

Healthy roots mean healthy plants, and since the roots live in the dirt, you want to be sure your dirt is as hospitable to those roots as possible. Peat moss is a great way to do just that.

Is Peat Moss Good for Lettuce?

While lettuce prefers more alkaline than acidic soil, adding some peat moss to the ground in your lettuce garden won’t be bad for your lettuce.

The stated benefits of peat moss— the fertilizing, and the mulching characteristics— will do good things for your lettuce, provided you don’t use too much and lower your soil’s pH levels too far.

Is Peat Moss Good for Pepper Plants?

Like lettuce, peppers like more alkaline-leaning soil, but peat moss will benefit them, provided you don’t use too much of it. 

How To Add Peat Moss to Soil

Mixing potting or garden soil with peat moss is as easy as maintaining the 2:1 ratio mentioned above. In the end, you want your mix to be about two-thirds soil and one-third peat moss.