Peat, what is it really?


Peat is fossil organic matter, formed from plant debris. It is the major constituent of soils saturated in water like peat bogs.

Peat is a non-renewable resource, and peat extraction is highly regulated. A full century is needed to replenish a meager 2 inches (5 cm) of peat.

It has been traditionally used as the prime raw material for soil mix because of its excellent agronomic properties.

It has the advantage of having excellent soil and air retention, and making the water available at need.

Different types of peat

Source of peat is peat mossThere are three major categories in which peat products fall:

  • Blond peat which comes from the processing of sphagnum or peat moss.
  • Brown peat
  • Black peat which also comes from decomposed sphagnum or peat moss, but which has broken down much longer.

To reduce environmental impact today, it is possible to use soil mix that contains a lower peat content, but still boasts similar agronomic properties. For example, manufacturers add Brière black soil or also wood fibers such as Hortifibre.

What is peat made from?

Peat is extracted from open-air quarriesPeat contents depend on many factors, like the vegetation which produced it, the climate and also how acidic the water is.

Essentially, peat contains water and poorly decomposed organic matter which accounts for 80 to 90% of dried ash weight. Only 10 to 20% of the peat is completely decomposed organic matter.

Carbon content can reach up to 50% of the total (dry) weight, which historically made it possible to use peat for fuel to cook or heat the house in regions where it was abundant.

Peat lined up on the ground

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
3 Peat slabs by Marthina Kluth under Pixabay license
Moss that forms peat moss by Алексей under Pixabay license
Mining peat by Bernd Wälz under Pixabay license
Rows of peat by Bernd Wälz under Pixabay license