Peaty soil is dark brown or black in color, soft, easily compressed due to its high water content, and rich in organic matter. Peat soil started forming over 9,000 years ago, with the rapid melting of glaciers. This rapid melt drowned plants quickly and died in the process. Their decay was so slow underwater that it led to the accumulation of organic area in a concentrated spot.

Although peat soil tends to be heavily saturated with water, once drained, it turns into a good growing medium. In the summer though, peat could be very dry and become a fire hazard. (I kid you not—peat is the precursor of coal.) The most desirable quality of peat soil, however, is in its ability to hold water in during the dry months and its capacity to protect the roots from damage during very wet months.

Peat contains acidic water, but growers use it to regulate soil chemistry or pH levels as well as an agent of disease control for the soil.

When wet peat soil is rolled, you won’t form a ball. It’s spongy to the touch and when squeezed, water could be forced out.