The Difference Between Peat Moss and Compost


Organic gardeners use soil amendments such as compost and peat moss to supplement their garden soil, improve soil quality, enrich the nutrient profile, and more. Each type of soil amendment is suitable for growing different types of plants, but you also need good quality topsoil to get the most benefits when growing beautiful plants. You can search “topsoil near me” online to find reputed nurseries that sell quality topsoil.

What is peat moss?

Peat moss is formed when the old and decomposed parts of the sphagnum moss that grows on the surface of peatland, swap, or soil sink into the lower layer and is decomposed slowly over a millennium and is combined with other organic matter. Thus, it is essentially a layer of non-renewable dead homogenous material that is fibrous in nature and dark brown in color.

Peat moss is primarily derived from the bogs and wetlands of Canada and other countries that reside in the northern hemispheres of the earth. Since it is classified as a non-renewable resource, the mining of peat moss is strictly regulated to operate in a sustainable manner and reduce any negative environmental effects.

What is compost?

Compost manure is an excellent organic fertilizer that is created from the remains of dead or decaying organic materials such as plant and animal remains. These can include vegetable scraps, animal remains, manure, leaves, rotted plants, and other forms of organic matter.

Compost is readily available in local nurseries for cheap, but you can also create your own compost by investing in a home composting system or by purchasing a composting bin. All you need to do to create your own compost is to throw away the plant, vegetable, and food matter in the bin and add a little bit of soil and water to help the composting process get started.

Peat moss vs compost

Now, let us look at some of the major differences between compost and peat moss:

  1. Availability – Unlike compost, it is not possible to create your own peat moss in your home since it only grows in the bogs and wetlands, and it takes many millennia to grow. This is the reason it is classified as a non-renewable resource. In fact, the majority of peat moss that you can buy from stores is sourced from the bogs in Canada.

Compost, on the other hand, is a renewable resource that is readily available in stores and can be created in your own backyard as well. You just need organic matter such as rotted or discarded plant materials, animal waste, discarded food material, vegetal scraps, and more, and a composting bin to create compost.

  1. Cost – Peat moss is costlier than compost since it is a non-renewable resource, regulated to reduce the negative impact on the environment, and needs to be mined. You can easily source compost from a local nursery and get discounts if you purchase in bulk. It is even possible to save further if you make your own compost.

However, peat moss is especially costly if you don’t live in the US since it needs to be harvested, packaged, and transported from Canada.

  1. Nutrient profile – The nutrient profile of peat moss is not that great when compared to other organic manure such as compost which is full of nutrients. Peat moss doesn’t contain any helpful microbes and is unsuitable for growing plants when not supplementing it with other soil amendments or providing the necessary nutrients. It also has a low pH level that ranges from 3.5 to 6 on average.

Compost is a great alternative to synthetic fertilizers since it is rich in essential macro and micronutrients required by all types of plants. It is also rich in helpful microorganisms such as bacteria that help to break down organic matter into nutrients that can be absorbed by plants or that convert nitrogen from the air that can be absorbed by the plants.

Compost is also full of helpful worms, insects, and other organisms that help to keep the soil well-aerated when they burrow through the soil.

  1. Usage – Generally, peat moss is best used as a hydroponic growing medium for a soilless culture in combination with other growing mediums such as vermiculite and perlite to balance the moisture and aeration. It can be used to improve the drainage and soil structure of heavy or clay soils. When combined with sandy soil, it helps to improve moisture nutrients for plant roots.

Since peat moss is low in pH, it is suitable for growing plants that thrive in acidic soils (ericaceous plants) such as rhododendrons, blueberries, azaleas, tomatoes, camellias, and more. Since peat moss is a sterile growing medium that lacks harmful chemicals, bacteria, weed seeds, and more, it is the perfect material for seed starting or making your own potting mix.

Compost is often used as a natural fertilizer by garters who don’t want to use synthetic fertilizers to improve soil quality. It is also used to neutralize both alkaline and acidic soils and restore the pH balance to neutral. It is mixed with sandy soil to improve soil structure and retain more water and nutrients, prevent soil erosion, encourage the growth of healthy root systems, and more.

Both peat moss and compost have high water retention. However, peat moss is not a good mulch since although it can hold up to ten times the water of its own weight, it is difficult to get it wet when it gets completely dry. However, it is ideal for use in regions that receive large amounts of rainfall and for growing plants that need to be watered just once a week.


Now that you have learned the various differences between peat moss and compost, hopefully, you would be able to decide which soil amendment to use for your plant growing needs. We recommend you get high-quality topsoil to ensure your plants grow in safe soil and receive proper nutrition. To purchase high-quality topsoil in your area, you can simply search “topsoil near me” online to find a list of shops that sell high-quality topsoil.

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