Do you have old bags of peat moss lying around in your garage or greenhouse? Have you wondered if was still good to use? It stinks throwing something away that can be reused or that has sat in a bag unopened. I’ve been looking into this and actually reached out to Miracle-Gro to get an answer. This is what I’ve learned:
Does peat moss expire? Bagged Peat Moss has no shelf life or expiration date. This was confirmed by a representative at Miracle-Gro for their Sphagnum Peat Moss product.
It is reassuring to know that those bags of peat moss in the garage or greenhouse are not going to expire, but what about peat moss that has been used. Does it lose its beneficial qualities once you’ve incorporated it into a potting mix? Should you try to reuse it or just throw it away? Let’s dig a little deeper and get some answers to these questions.
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Does Peat Moss Go Bad?
An expiration date is one thing, but the real question is whether or not peat moss will go bad after a period of time. And by that we mean, is it no longer beneficial or even detrimental to plants and gardens.
To really evaluate this question, we have to first understand what benefit it brings. As a soil amendment, peat moss is highly absorbent and can help with water retention. It tends to be slightly acidic so it can add additional Ph benefit to acid-loving plants.
As for it “going bad”, I found no evidence to support a loss of acidity or water absorption capability over time, assuming it has not been used. This supports Miracle-Gro’s position on not having a shelf life or expiration date on their Sphagnum Peat Moss product.
If, on the other hand, you are considering reusing peat moss, there is a possibility that it has lost its ability to absorb water as well as its acidity. This would depend heavily on the situation it has been used in and the length of time it was used. Another factor would be what you plan to use it for.
We will look at some scenarios for reuse later in this article.
Does Peat Moss Lose Its Nutrients As It Ages?
As it turns out, peat moss doesn’t actually contain many (if any) nutrients in the first place (source). So you don’t need to worry about old peat moss from a nutrient standpoint.
Where it does play a role with nutrients, however, is in helping the soil to retain micronutrients that are dispersed from fertilizers (source). This has to do with its ability to hold onto (bind) nutrients.
From an aging standpoint, there should be no loss of benefit.
Should You Reuse It Or Toss It Out?
By all means, don’t throw it away. Peat moss takes thousands of years to develop. Remember, if it comes from the ground, return it to the ground.
Whether or not you should reuse it for a specific project, however, will depend entirely on your purposes for reuse. Here are three scenarios where you may consider reusing and advice on whether or not you are better off just buying a new bag.
- Covering Lawn Seed – Peat moss is often recommended for covering newly planted lawn seed. It helps to keep the seeds moist. Assuming your used supply has not lost its water-retaining ability, there would be no reason that it couldn’t be reused in this way.
- Reuse In Potted Plants – Since it’s most valuable attribution is its ability to retain water, reusing peat moss for potted plants is generally not a good idea. You want to ensure the most nutrient-rich and moist medium for potted plants to grow in. Best to go with a new bag in this case.
- Compost It – Peat moss can serve as a carbon source for your compost pile. It should also help with preventing compaction in the pile. Just make sure you are including plenty of nitrogen-rich sources. If you are not up to taking on a full composting project, you can always just bury your peat moss in the ground along with some kitchen scraps. Click here to read how I practice this dig-and-drop compost method in my own yard.
Is Spagmoss The Same As Peat Moss?
I had to do some searching on this one but as it turns out, there are a few distinct differences between Spagmoss and Spagmoss Peat Moss.
According to the Besgrow website, the two mosses are actually known as Sphagnum moss and Sphagnum peat moss. Below are a couple of key differences according to the website (source).
|Spagmoss||Spagmoss Peat Moss|
|Pure moss||Often includes other organic matter|
|Neutral Ph||Slightly Acidic|
The site recommends Spagmoss for use in seed starting projects and basket lining while the peat moss is more appropriate for use in garden soils and potting.
Peat moss does not expire so there is no reason that you can’t pull out an unused bag from that forgotten corner in your garage and put it to use. When it comes to reusing peat moss, keep the guidelines we’ve outlined in mind.
The key to determining whether your peat moss is reusable has to do with the intended application and its water-retaining ability. If water retention is essential for your project, go with a new bag of peat moss. If you are looking for a way to add more nutrients to your soil, peat moss may not be the answer at all.
Whatever you do, don’t let used peat moss end up in a landfill somewhere. Compost it, bury it with some kitchen scraps, or find another way to reuse it or return it to the ground. With thousands of years required for this moss to develop, the last thing we need to do is discard it in an irresponsible way.