Peat Moss Vs. Compost: Which One is the Better Choice?

peat moss vs compost
Peat and compost are two examples of organic soil amendments. Compost is a better option than peat moss if you are worried about the cost of the peat moss or the impact that your actions will have on the environment. Use peat moss when planting species that thrive in acidic soil.

Some gardeners use these amendments interchangeably, but it’s important to remember that each one has unique qualities that we should consider. 

Is Peat Moss the Same as Compost?

Peat moss is not the same as compost.

Peat moss is an organic material made from accumulated moss layers (the base comprises peat moss).

When ordinary organic matter breaks down into nutrient-rich soil, the dark brown byproduct of this process is called compost.

What Is Peat Moss?

Peat moss is an inanimate fibrous material that forms in peat bogs due to the decomposition of mosses with other plant material.

Peat moss differs from the compost that gardeners generate in their backyards in two key respects: 

  • First, peat moss is made up almost entirely of moss.
  • Second, the decomposition process in peat moss takes place in the absence of air, which slows down the decomposition rate. Peat moss develops for several millennia, and the depth of peat bogs grows by only one millimeter yearly. Peat moss is considered a non-renewable resource since this process is sluggish.

It is important to differentiate between peat moss and potting mix, commonly known as potting soil mix.

In contrast, potting mix typically includes components such as sphagnum moss, perlite, coconut coir, and vermiculite, amongst other things. Peat moss is usually soilless.

Any Drawbacks to Using Peat Moss?

Peat moss has two significant drawbacks:

  • it is costly
  • environmental concerns

Let’s explain these two points:

The price of peat moss might vary widely depending on the producer; ‌it is typically quite pricey.

Peat moss is sold in cubic foot and quart quantities. The smaller bags are convenient for combining lesser volumes of potting soil, making them an excellent choice for folks with smaller gardens or growing plants in containers. We recommend getting a smaller bag of peat moss if you want to cut costs.

Although it does not pose any immediate threats to the natural world, peat moss isn’t a renewable resource. Peat moss is formed through biological processes for hundreds of thousands of years.

Peat reserves are thought to expand by approximately one millimeter yearly. Because of this, there are stringent rules governing the cultivation and collection of peat moss.

In the same vein, this process generates a lot of carbon. Peat removal results in a significant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

What Is Compost?

Compost is an excellent organic material for the garden; anyone could make theirs if they wanted.

Because compost shares many benefits with peat moss, it can be a suitable substitute for peat moss in many situations.

The ability of the soil to retain water can be improved by compost, and it is also an excellent medium for fostering the growth of plants.

Besides this, you can find the nutrients your plants need in this material abundance.

Compost vs. Peat Moss

Let’s compare compost and peat moss.

Key CharacteristicCompostPeat moss
pH LevelNeutral o alkalineLow/acidic
Used as mulchYesNo
Moisture retentionGoodExellent
  • Making your compost pile from food and yard waste takes time but costs nothing but patience. Because of the high cost of harvesting, packaging, and transporting peat moss, compost is a more cost-effective alternative. Compost‌ differs in richness more than peat moss since it comprises a wide variety of materials (leaves, food scraps, wood, decomposing plant matter, among others), each of which contributes a particular element to the mix. 
  • Compost, composed primarily of plant materials, has a lower salinity level than compost made primarily of animal products or other materials. In contrast, peat moss has negligible salt and is frequently added to garden soils to lower sodium concentrations. It’s not uncommon for compost soil to have a pH of 7.0 or higher (neutral or alkaline), while peat moss soil has an acidic pH of 4.4 or lower. Peat moss creates acidic soil, perfect for growing acid-loving plants like camellias, azaleas, and blueberries. When using a lot of peat moss in your soil, you need also incorporate some lime to assist balance the soil pH level.
  • When put as the top layer for garden beds, compost can serve as a great mulch because it is densely packed with beneficial microbes and a rich source of nutrients. Though not exceptionally productive, peat moss contains certain minerals and microorganisms. Given its high water retention, peat moss isn’t an ideal mulch since it can prevent water from reaching the soil underneath, and the wind can easily disperse it as it dries out.
  • Although peat moss and compost are good at retaining water, peat moss is superior to compost when it comes to moisture retention, particularly when it is put on sandy soils. You can also use it on clay soil.

When to Use Peat Moss?

  • Mix peat moss into your potting soil when planting species that thrive in acidic soil—such as azaleas, camellias, or blueberries.
  • Use peat moss to neutralize alkaline soil.
  • Till it into a planting bed with insufficiently friable soil.

When to Use Compost

  • You may use compost when establishing your planting beds.
  • Use it as mulch for your gardens and landscape plantings.
  • As backfill, use compost when planting shrubs, trees, and perennials.
  • You can also use compost as a side dressing for veggies or control erosion.

When trying to coax your plants into producing abundant harvests, one of the many challenges you can face is deciding whether to use peat moss or compost as a soil amendment.

Peat moss is more effective for some jobs, whereas compost is more effective for others.

Bringing balance to your soil requires you first to identify its deficiencies and then recognize what the soil is missing.


Discovering composting as a way of life or even better, as nature’s way of recycling, Ana dedicates her time to trying out new methods of composting at home. Her goal is to share everything that she’s learned in the hopes that it will help others discover the amazing rewards of composting.

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