The world is running out of peat moss. Horticulture is largely to blame. Peat moss is the partially decomposed remains of formerly living sphagnum moss from bogs. It purifies air and mitigates flood damage. They are among the myriad wetlands that are under threat. The Netherlands once had large areas of peat. And they are diminishing, damaged or destroyed, at an astonishing rate in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and New Zealand.
Ken Druse writes on Garden Rant — http://gardenrant.com/2009/04/ken-druse-dishes-the-dirt-about-peat-moss.html — that “because peat moss is nearly impossible to re-wet once it’s dried, it repels water and makes terrible surface mulch. The biggest problem with peat moss is that it’s environmentally bankrupt.
“Peat moss is mined, which involves scraping off the top layer of living sphagnum moss. The sphagnum peat bog above the mined product is a habitat for plants like sundews, butterwort and bog rosemary, as well as rare and endangered animals like dragonflies, frogs and birds, not to mention the living moss itself. Despite manufacturers’ claims that the bogs are easy to restore, the delicate community that inhabits the bog cannot be quickly re-established. Yes, peat moss is a renewable resource, but it can take hundreds to thousands of years to form.”
Druse – a garden podcaster whose work can be found at http://www.kendruse.typepad.com/ — goes on to give a strong, convincing argument about why it is imperative that we give up using peat in our gardens.
Recently, I heard from my friend Andrew that there is a possibly perfect alternative, one that is endlessly and quickly renewable: sheep’s wool. This is exciting news. Check out Herdwick wool compost at http://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/latest-news/news/2014/5/ewe-nique-herdwick-wool-compost-launched-at-rhs-chelsea-flower-show.aspx. If it works well enough to put the peat mines out of business, let’s hope it will soon be available to US, as well as UK gardeners.
This blog is not meant to be a how-to, but to be about lore. I can find very little about peat moss, so far, although it was once burned in fireplaces and there are all kinds of otherworldly beings with names like bogy, bogey-beast, boggle-boos, bogies, and more (no bloggies or blogey-beasts), and if we speculate wildly, we could imagine their geneses are the mysterious moss and peatlands.
And what of the bog people? What are the true stories of those ancient bodies discovered almost perfectly preserved in the peat bogs of Scandinavia? Why were they there? Were these ritual deaths? The burial grounds for supernatural creatures or space aliens?
Of the bog folk, so-called Tollund Man is the best preserved from the 4th century BCE and looks for all the world like a peacefully napping Charleton Heston.