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We must learn to garden without peat

We must all move to peat-free potting composts where we use compost for our seed and plant growing. Reading the April issue of the RHS ‘The Garden’ magazine gives a clearer picture of just how important this is.

The figures quoted for the UK peatlands carbon storage is 3.2 billion tonnes which we are told is greater than that stored in all of our forests. The government will not grant any new licences for peat extraction; however the existing production sites which are mainly on the rare lowland raised bogs have extraction permissions for many years to come, so unless we stop purchasing peat composts and insisting on peat-free we will continue to see something like 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent released every year. Much of the peat based potting compost used in the UK turns out to use imported peat from the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries, with the additional carbon costs of all the associated transport miles.

Organisations such as the RHS and the National Trust are leading the way by eliminating peat from all of their growing, however the majority of the composts sold to the public remain high in peat content and the UK has failed totally to meet the government target of eliminating peat use by 2020. The UK government has now said that sales of peat compost to gardeners will be banned from 2024.

The quality of the available peat-free composts has improved over the past few years, and whilst it has slightly different characteristics and higher water retaining qualities than the traditional peat-based material it is eminently suitable for all of our gardening needs. Compost bags at the garden centre should now clearly indicate the percentage of peat that they contain.

So even though the cost of peat-free composts is slightly higher we can act to reduce our individual carbon footprints by moving to these products and by pushing the suppliers that we use to stock this planet friendly growing medium.

RHS Advice on peat-free growing media can be found here.

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