Ecotip – Gardeners – time to go peat free

Gardeners – time to go peat free

by Phil Chatfield

As spring approaches, gardeners think about planting seeds and preparing their gardens. A supply of compost is essential, so we head to the garden centre. Although peat free compost is available, most of what is available contains peat. After more than twenty years of campaigning by environmental groups and gardeners like Monty Don, we still use huge amounts of peat in our gardens. Peat comes mainly from lowland raised bogs – an increasingly rare habitat in the UK and across Europe. In recent years, the need to conserve this diminishing natural resource has been recognised. This matters because:

  1. Peat renews at approximately 1mm per year, so is not really a renewable resource.
  2. Peat bogs store a lot of carbon The equivalent of 20 years of industrial carbon is stored in British peat bogs alone. As this erodes following mining, more carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  3. Peat bogs are home to a large number of plants and animals, including birds such as snipe and the skylark, as well as many butterflies and dragonflies.

Although some peat is used as fuel, the vast majority is used by gardeners.

So on your trip to the garden centre, look for the peat free options – and if they are not available, ask why not! If the bag doesn’t say “peat-free” then it most likely is not. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends choosing peat-free compost with good on-label information. You should read and follow the instructions on the packaging about the suitability of the mix for particular purposes.

For more information, see:

Based on information from the RHS and The Ecologist.