is all peat moss the "same"?

terratoma(7a)September 30, 2012

Have a question about the sphagnum peat moss to be used in the 5-1-1 mix.

The types of peat moss I've seen at Lowe's, HD and other retailers are all dull brown in color with (according to the list of components) some perlite and a small amount of fertilizer, and would require screening to break it down into fine particles. But I recently found a peat moss (tradename was Premier Sphagnum Peat Moss) that was powdery in texture and a rich brown color: reminded me of Hershey's Cocoa Mix! It had no additional components.

Is this peat moss acceptable in my container mix?


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Yes. The premier sphag is very popular.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Thanks, MG. I don't think we can assume that this brand is superior just because of its name. :o)
I just want to be sure that it will work well in the mix. The powdery texture and color are unlike any I've seen and makes me question its suitability.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:16PM
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You know that too many very fine particles in your pot will make soil mix much more water are you planning on using it (as part of mix/how large part)?
I would never buy something just because it's 'very popular' - does not necesserily means the best...

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 7:40AM
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Hi Rina. Good questions.
Since this will be my first try with the soil mix, I plan to use what I've seen mentioned frequently: 5 parts pine bark fines; 1 part sphagnum peat moss; 1-2 parts perlite; and, appropriate amount of dolomitic lime. Have received valuable advice on another thread regarding size of pine bark: will be using anything from 1/2" (or perhaps 3/8") right on down to the dust. If the result seems too water retentive, I'll reduce the amount of peat moss. (Of course, "too water retentive" seems to be quite a subjective matter; seems to be based upon the height of the resulting perched water table, not to mention how frequently you wish to water!) :o) I'm beginning to believe my knowledge is just enough to make me dangerous to the plants. With experience, hopefully I'll become less lethal.
I agree that 'very popular' more often than not has little to do with a product's appropriateness. I'm sure that the "premier" in the brand name is simply a marketing ploy: it seems that every product claims to be the 'best', the 'ultimate', 'top grade', 'AAA quality' or, in the case of this peat moss, 'premier'.
My oncern is actually about its appearance: very powdery texture and rich brown color. This is in contrast to what I've usually seen sold. Was just wondering if anyone had used this type of peat moss and how well it worked in the mix.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:37AM
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Premier is a pioneer in the game. They make promix......

I have actually have experience with the product..


Are you going to recommend a brand of peatmoss? What do you use?

Can you show me a brand that is cheaper then premier? How come ALL I see in HD or lowes is the huge 3 cuft bales of premier peat, and no other brand?

How come premier makes their very own soilless mix? When something is sold more, the customer gets it at a cheaper rate. So if something is "popular" and is being sold at mass, then it is cheaper to each person. Simple economics.

So yes, if something is "popular" there is a reason it is....

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:16AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When it comes to peat moss, I'm much more interested in what's IN the bag (the product) than what's ON the bag (brand/hype). I don't pay much attention to brand (or hype) because I usually buy in large bales & invariably they are a very coarse product - as I like it.

Peat moss is graded according to its particle size or how far its decomposition has advanced. For soils, you want a coarse or extra coarse product. The extra fine/fine/medium grades are better used in applications like hydro-seeding, seed starting, plant plug production, overlaying golf greens ......

In addition to being graded by particle size, sphagnum peat might also be rated according to the Von Post Scale of Humification, which provides a way of gauging how advanced is its state of decomposition.

Someone not long ago gave me a small bag of peat, like you would find in stores next to the small bags of plant related materials in the houseplants section. It was wheat flour fine & I just spread it on the lawn. If I was into seed starting, I might have used it to cover seeds broadcast over a coarse medium, but there is no scarcity of Turface fines around here to fill that need, so .....

Often, a product's popularity has little to do with its value and a LOT to do with marketing strategy, so I'm with Rina on that score. Miracle-Gro potting soil is an example - probably the most widely used potting medium in the US, but it also has the highest number of users with problems, from what I regularly see. The question is begged, do so many people ask for remedial help with the soil's issues simply because there ARE so many people using it, or does the soil have problems inherent? I think the later, and I base that thought on both my understanding of soils and the very high % of other experienced growers here at GW who wouldn't consider using it unamended as it comes from the bag. Few are the number of experienced growers who actually recommend it w/o substantial modification.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 3:35PM
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Thanks Al. I hope I made myself clear in my original post. I was NOT buying into the 'Premier' brand name as being a 'premier' grade of peat moss. Simply put, this peat moss looked different (rich brown) and felt different (fine and powdery) than any I'd seen. I was inquiring as to whether anyone had experience with this product and whether or not it was suitable for use in the 5-1-1 mix.
So... I called Premier Horticulture (the manufacturer) who couldn't answer questions about the grading of their peat moss, but who did put me in touch with an individual who is supposedly 'in the know' about such things. This individual, as promised, was quite familiar with this product. She said it was their basic peat moss and was distributed to Lowe's, Home Depot, etc., while their better types were only available to nurseries, greenhouses, etc. She agreed that this particular product was too fine to be used in containers (too water retentive). Said that their "better" grades were coarser, less decomposed and lighter in color.
So, I bought a pig in a poke but am a little wiser. I'd appreciate suggestions as to what brand(s) would work best in the 5-1-1 container mix.
(BTW, a neighbor offered me a bale of Sunshine Mix 1/ Professional Growing Mix manufactured by SunGro Horticulture. It is 75-85% sphagnum peat moss and contains horticultural grade perlite and dolomitic limestone, according to the packaging. It's much coarser than the Premier Horticulture product. Unfortunately, it doesn't list what proportion is perlte or limestone, and the perlite is the very fine stuff as opposed to the coarse #4 that I've already purchased. So I'd prefer not to use this.)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 5:15PM
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Al, thank you for that explanation. I really learned a lot from that.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 6:55PM
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So this brings me back to what I was getting at. Of course there are better grades in nurseries and hydroshops, but that may be not easy to find, and the price is going to be high.

"Said that their "better" grades were coarser, less decomposed and lighter in color."

"said it was their basic peat moss and was distributed to Lowe's, Home Depot, etc., while their better types were only available to nurseries, greenhouses, etc."

On a side note:

"Miracle-Gro potting soil is an example - probably the most widely used potting medium in the US, but it also has the highest number of users with problems, from what I regularly see"

It is not just miracle gro, it is a lot of potting soils that have problems when not stored right. Of course light soilless grow media will preform better then potting soil, but is that to say it has NO disadvantages over potting soil? When soil is stored right it can last very long. Potting soil is- Forest compost/peat/perlite/lime/crf. The compost acts as a great buffer which is why potting soil is easier to grow in then the premier pro mix or the Sunshine Mix, or any inert soilless mixes.... Search-Advantages and disadvantages of hydroponics to get a better idea. There are MANY disadvantages of growing in soil, just like there are some disadvantages of hydroponics.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:49PM
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I am glad that Al answered - he knows & knows how to explain clearly...Whatever little I know is from reading his posts.
I would not look for cheapest either, as the saying goes: you get what you pay for.
(I do understand that most of us have to keep cost down, and if you are making huge amounts of mix, cost of everything is consideration).

I repotted some of my plants into 5-1-1 and almost all of my succulents into gritty. All of them are doing really great.
All other plants are going into 5-1-1 next year.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:58PM
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I think the OP is really trying to find advice on where to get this "coarse" peat if the premier sold in big box stores apparenty is not even good enough.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:45PM
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Hi again Rina. Master Gardener1, you're absolutely right. I'm looking for suggestions as to the brand(s) that would work well in the mix.
Locally, Lowe's sells two brands: Fafard and Greensmix. Each is sold in 3 cubic foot bales and is about $10 per bale. There is nothing on the packaging that refers to grade, coarseness, etc. Am going to check with the local nurseries later today.
Has anyone had experience using either of these brands in their mix?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:51AM
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Dont worry This is typical....
Some give advice about how you cant use that yet they cant tell you where you can easily get this 'needed' "coarse" peat?

I have used this premier peat for inside plants and outside plants. I used a 50/50 peat/potting mix outside and it worked great!

Some of those nice Cayenne plants on the left are in 50/50 peat/potting soil. I have huge freezer bags filled with cayenne! :) I would say the proof is in the experience.

Here is my favorite little pepper!! :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:34AM
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Nice pepper plants!
Just an update on the peat moss local availability. Lowe's no longer has Fafard or Greensmix, although they appear on their website. Ditto for Home Depot. They and Lowe's have only Premier and a brand called Sta-Green.
However, have located two nursery sources (the only ones who sell peat moss) in Roanoke who sell Pro-Moss, also a Premier Horticulture product. Anyone have experience using this? (Am getting desperate!) :0)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:34PM
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Any reason you are not just using the premier found right in home depot? Many many people including myself use it.....Well, that is all the advice I can really give, if you think you really need to find different peat moss, go for it.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:53PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

FWIW, I've used the Premier brand peat in 3 cf bales for 5-1-1 mix for scores of vegetables and flowering annuals for the past two summers and think it works well. Yes it is fine, but is only 15 percent of the mix. I would choose it over any peat with added ingredients like the others you mention. I prefer to control the amount and type of perlite, lime and fertilizer in my mix myself. I've been gardening for decades and never seen sphagnum peat labelled with different grades, and I do most of my garden shopping in good quality garden stores.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Thanks for your response, Ohiofem.
Al mentioned that sphagnum peat moss was graded based on the size of the particles and the stage of decomposition. Like you, I couldn't find any information regarding a grade on the labeling. As I understand it, the fine particled peat is fully decomposed while the coarse, "chunky" peat is much less decomposed and, as Al mentioned, works better in soil. And I share your concern about the "other" ingredients added to the peat by the manufacturer.
BTW, have you heard of Pro Moss which is manufactured by the same maker of Premier peat?

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 2:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Your peat may not have been subjected to the grading process because the average hobby grower has little need to order a boxcar full of a specific type of peat - I only meant there are at least 2 grading systems in place for growers who require peat with specific physical properties.

I've never paid attention to what I buy. The cheap stuff in bales is usually always coarse, so I see little variation in the product from bale to bale, year to year, brand to brand. I usually find Premier brand, which I push through a 1'2" screen before I use it - to break up big chunks & remove large sticks. What doesn't pass the screen (a minuscule fraction of the whole) gets tossed on the raised beds to break down.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 4:42PM
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Thanks Al.
Just to make sure I understand: Using the extremely fine (powdery) sphagnum peat moss, which came in the Premier packaging, might not be the best choice for use in the 5-1-1 mix. If possible, try to find a coarser type. Correct? (Or am I making too big of a deal over the texture of the peat moss? Is the texture an insignificant factor?)

I'm really not trying to be a pain about all this. As others have advised, I'll probably be experimenting with various ratios of the individual ingredients as I go from growing season to growing season and observe the results. Am just wanting to start this process with the preferred ingredients for the 5-1-1. And in my search, I came up with quite different textures in peat moss. If it's not a sticking point, I'll be relieved.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:50PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think that for the 5:1:1 mix, worrying over peat is much ado about nothing. Buy the cheapest stuff you can find & avoid the extra fine stuff (I spread the stuff someone gave me on the lawn - remember?) The only guideline I would suggest is that the cheap stuff is usually (ALWAYS has been insofar as I've seen) coarse and great for the 5:1:1 mix. I don't consider it a sticking point at all, and I can be pretty AR about my soils. ;-)


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 6:28PM
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Thanks Al, as well as everyone who posted with their own experience and advice.

I'll give the Premier a try. And I just might mix an additional small batch with the Sunshine Mix: it has a coarse texture and, although it has some perlite and lime already added, it is the right price ($0). :0)

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 9:50PM
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