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Half-dead Sphagnum Moss

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#1 MalcolmP

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 13:49 PM

Today I found a garden centre with Gardman "live" Sphagnum Moss for hanging baskets.
It looked like it had been alive once upon a time ! But was mostly brownish with just a few green bits amongst it. I was being generous when I said "half-dead" in the title !
I have marked my diary to go back there from time to time to catch a new batch.

Anyway, why am I telling you this you might wonder ?
Well on the way home I got to thinking, would the dead stuff be a substitute for perlite in the compost mix with peat?
It should keep it nice and open, any dying/decay products would simulate a peat bog anyway so should not be a problem; would avoid using perlite which I am going off after reading some threads here and on other websites that it might be a health hazard.

So what do you think ? Have I missed a downside ?
Should I go back and get a bag ? £4.99 wouldnt break the bank and some of it might grow again !

Edited by MalcolmP, 26 June 2012 - 13:51 PM.

#2 0rmus

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 14:31 PM

Hi MalcolmP.

Sorry to hear about the Sphagnum Moss.

Would the sphagnum be a replacement for perlite? No, not really. Even dead it would still retain water like a sponge. It wouldn’t provide the drainage and aeration you get from adding perlite to a peat mix.

Using long fibrous sphagnum like you get for hanging baskets is a good potting mixture by itself. Its high water abortion is counteracted by its lower density so you don't need perlite. It does tend to keep things a bit on the wet side, especially is you are trying to keep the surface spagnum alive. I use it for small plants and cuttings. You can still use the dead sphagnum as a potting mixture as long as it isn't rotting. My suggestion to you is give it a good soak with rain water, chop it up, stick it in a pot and it’s good to go.

For larger plants I prefer a peat and perlite mix 1:1. Add suitable sand to the mix If you can find any. This allows the medium to have a nice moist/dry*ish* cycle which will stimulates good root growth and helps prevent rot and fungus attacks.

As for the safety of perlite, i'm not sure what you mean? If you mean the possibility of mineral build up on the perlite, a good soak can counter that. If you mean the dust, again, a good soak can counter that ...or a dust mask.

Edited by 0rmus, 26 June 2012 - 14:38 PM.

#3 Alexis

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 14:54 PM

It should sprout again if you lay it out in tray of water. You might have to wait a few weeks, but there should be spores in the dead matter that will bring it back to life.

#4 MalcolmP

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 16:23 PM

Thanks 0rmus and alexis, very interesting.

>"a good soak can counter that ...or a dust mask."

Yes the dust. I was also under the misapprehension that it was manmade but just googled and found it to be volcanic, there's a surprise !
So thanks I'll stay with the peat/perlite mix for my few plants for now and experiment with sphagnum later when I have more experimental subjects :)

>"You might have to wait a few weeks,"

I'll give that a whirl then, thanks. And anyway it may be quite a few weeks before they get a new supply in, so worth a try meanwhile.

So I went back and bought a bag, wife thought I was nuts, so no change there then !! :) :)
She spotted a small cactus ( a gymnocalycium erinaceum) about to flower so I bought her that to mollify her ;)