To start with, the name tags ‘peat moss’ and ‘peat’ are, in most cases, used interchangeably. However, it is essential to recognize the small distinction between them.
Through several thousands of years, various plant materials found underwater have subsequently broken down to form some soil species, which is otherwise known as ‘peat’.
The most recognized form of peat usually originates from the moss plant, which is known as sphagnum.
What Factors Should You Consider When Making Peat Moss?
Geomorphology may affect peat formation through its influence on soil saturation, hydrology, water movement on the surface, and surface erosion.
This factor can directly or indirectly interfere with water and temperature, thus controlling peat formation and development. In contrast, surface erosion discourages peat accumulation since all plant debris is usually washed away rather than be accumulated.
Likewise, soil conditions, for instance, soil moisture content, soil microbes, soil temperature, and pH value, can directly influence the decomposition rate of organic materials, thereby influencing peat formation.
Temperature can affect the activity and reproductive rate of soil microorganisms, thereby influencing plant debris decomposition rate.
For instance, when the temperatures are high, chemical actions and soil microbes’ reproduction rate increases. As a result, the decomposition of plant materials is fastened.
In contrast, under cold weather conditions, the decomposing of plant materials is always slow because soil microbes usually work slowly.
How Do You Make Peat Moss?
Step 1: Prepare The Land Surface
Start by creating primary (main) ditches along the bog periphery, which is usually 1 to 1.5 meters wide and 1.5 to 2 meters deep. Ensure that the primary ditches have a low gradient. Depending on the local conditions, tracks mounted with excavators are ideal for making primary ditches.
Afterward, dig secondary (field) ditches throughout the development site, parallel to each other and separated at 30 meters. The field ditches should link the periphery of the primary ditches.
The field ditches are usually V-shaped, with depths of 1 meter and upper widths of 80 to 100 centimeters. The V-shaped ditches are ideally created using a double wheel ditcher.
Water that is drained from the production fields should flow from the field ditches into the main ditches from there into outlet ditches. The outlets lead water into the undisturbed peatland buffer zone of lowlands.
During peat formation, the water from the rainfall and the nearby rivers accumulate in the ditches.
Step 2: Peat Deposition
Organic matter from vegetation around the development site accumulates at the bottom of the water-logged ditch. The peat that accumulates in the initial ditch is called the primary peat.
The peat starts to grow outward towards the center, while vegetation forms a floating mat around the reduced ditch.
As the peat continues to accumulate, the surface of the wetland becomes isolated from the underground water, and in the process, sphagnum starts to dominate. Sphagnum moss can grow to heights of 0.74-4.75 inches per year.
The plant can also acidify bog water; it does so by taking cations and releasing hydrogen ions. In addition to anaerobic conditions, very few plant species can flourish on the peat surface.
Therefore only pitcher plants, sphagnum moss, cotton grass, labrador tea, and rhododendron can grow.
Step 3: Decomposition Stage
With anaerobic conditions, only a small number of microbes can survive to carry out the decomposition process. Consequently, the accumulation rate is faster than the rate of decomposing dead sphagnum moss accumulating at the bog base.
The peat moss that is partially decomposed is usually spongy and yellowish, while fully decomposed peat moss is finer and brow-black in color.
Step 4: Accumulation Stage
The annual rate of peat moss accumulation is between 0.5-1.0 mm. The accumulated peat can range from 5 cm to 6 meters in depth.
Step 5: Peat Moss Harvesting Stage
That’s it! All you need to do now is to harvest your peat moss.
How Do You Harvest Peat Moss?
Drain The Fields
The first step in peat moss harvesting is digging drainage ditches around and within site to allow some water to drain. The draining of water creates a more stable working environment for the harvesting machines.
Clear Surface Vegetation
To access the peat deposits, ensure that all surface vegetation like grass, trees, bushes, and shrubs are removed.
Level The Ground
To allow for drainage of the remaining water and adequate drying, a leveler should be used to shape the ground evenly and crown it.
Prepare The Fields
During harvesting, the peat moss top layer is usually harrowed to break the capillary flow and enhance the drying process. In the drying process of peat moss, the sun and the wind are very vital.
Dry And Collect The Peat Moss
After drying, a skinny layer of the dry peat moss is collected using large vacuum harvesters. Afterward, the harvested peat is either stockpiled or hauled to the processing facility for screening and packaging.
The harvested peat moss can also be taken to a nearby storage area instead of taking it directly to a processing plant. To encourage adequate drying of the milled peat, you can use a hockey stick or rotary harrow to turn over the peat.
Screen And Package The Peat Moss
The vacuum harvested peat is usually taken through a series of star screens to remove sticks and roots. Some companies like Sunterra uses star screens ranging from 1/8’’ up to 3/8”.
Each of the screens has two nine-foot sections controlled by variable speed drives. Finally, the screened peat is passed through a compression baller, where it’s compressed and packed.
Restore And Rehabilitate The Peatlands
After completing the project, the harvested area should be restored to its original state through mash creation, vegetation, and tree planting. The goal is to allow the successfully restored peatlands to regulate themselves and start accumulating peat again.