Peat and gardening (again)

It’s still freezing, but winter aconites and snowdrops are coming into flower, and gardeners’ thoughts turn to sowing seedings and planting things.

Mainstream gardening media now urge us to use ‘peat-free’ compost, because digging up peat increases carbon emissions by releasing stored carbon into the air. Also, the peat bogs that are drained to provide our multipurpose compost are rare habitats, with their own biodiversity; they take on average 1500 years to form one metre of peat, yet that can be destroyed in a few hours with modern machinery.

Although we might only buy one or two bags of multipurpose compost a year, if it’s based on peat (and most still are), all those single bags add up; the amateur gardening market uses nearly double the amount of peat than the whole of the commercial horticultural sector (source: UK Government figures for 2019 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/peat-usage-in-growing-media-production#history.

Peat-free alternatives have improved tremendously over the last few years. They may still be a little more expensive, though this may change as more countries ban peat mining because of its damaging effect on climate change. For example, most of the peat used in multipurpose composts in the UK has come from the Republic of Ireland up till now, but Ireland recently announced a ban on mining peat for horticultural use.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be collating information about people’s experience with various brands, and we’ll also try and publicise details of who’s selling which brands, locally. And we’ll try and suggest a few non-commercial alternatives that work (spoiler: most experts recommend using commercial compost for seed-sowing, as drainage and sterility are important; but after that, there are homemade alternatives that would save money as well as the environment).