Knowledge is Power!
NOTE: It is important to wear gloves when handling peatmoss because of danger of contracting Sporotrichosis (Skilling).
There is a dead zone near the condo where the soil has been sandy and dry. It is a patch surrounded by concrete where the only things that have survived have been one tall palm tree and a shrub, one dwarf azalea (out of four planted) and one spearmint plant (out of three planted). So, since it is a shady area protected from the harsher weather changes because it is close to the building, we decided to amend the soil and see if we can create a drought-tolerant shade garden there.
Since there were almost no earthworms in the soil and very few living plants, after trimming the palm tree, we decided to take out an old wooden border around the area and add a bag of Canadian sphagnum peat moss to the soil. This type of peat moss is more environmentally friendly than others, because it is from Canada, which has larger deposits of peatmoss that renew at a faster rate than those found in Europe. Also, a lot of areas with peatmoss in Canada are protected. ("Peat Moss"). We turned the peatmoss into the soil, working about four inches deep. Then we planted a few poinsettias close to the building where they will get adequate shade. The sphagnum peat moss should enrich the soil with organic matter and also help with water retention. We intend to further amend the soil by burying kitchen compost material in that area, even as we experiment with plants that do not need as much water or light to see what will grow there now that the soil has changed some.
"Peat Moss." Journey to Forever. http://journeytoforever.org/compost_peatmoss.html
"Peat Moss and the Environment: Environmental Concerns." The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association. 2008. http://www.peatmoss.com/concern.php
Skilling, Darroll D. "Sporotrichosis: A Disease for Nursery Personnel and Tree Planters." Long Island Horticulture News. October, 1984. (Rpt. From "Tree Planter's Notes" USDA Forest Service. Fall, 1983. http://www.co.allen.in.us/images/stories/pdf/ACH26.pdf