For peat's sake

Severely eroding peat on the top of Kinder Scout, Derbyshire. © Gordon Barker

Severely eroding peat on the top of Kinder Scout, Derbyshire.

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Gardeners should think twice before using peat in their gardens. The environment is at stake.

Our gardens have been using peat-free compost since 1999. By anyone’s standards, our gardens are beautiful, abundant and thriving so we can certainly say we’re happy to garden without peat.

What does peat do for the environment?
Peat locks carbon and prevents it from entering the atmosphere, where it forms CO2, the main greenhouse gas. UK peatlands store approximately 3 billion tonnes of carbon. If this was lost as CO2 to the atmosphere, it would be equivalent to over 20 years of UK industrial emissions*.

There’s around 100kg of carbon per cubic metre of peat, equivalent to the emissions from one car driving 2,000 miles.

Why shouldn’t we dig it up?
Peat develops very slowly, so it may take hundreds of years to replace each metre that is extracted for use in private gardens.

  • at present, the peat dug up in Britain for gardens releases almost 0.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year

How much peat does the UK use?
Amateur gardeners account for almost 69 per cent of all peat used in the UK, mainly in multi-purpose compost and grow bags.

  • in a recent poll of over 1000 UK gardeners, less than 29 per cent said they buy peat-free growing media.
  • over 38 per cent of the public were not aware that most multi-purpose composts contain peat (unless otherwise specified.
  • Defra has been exploring further reductions of peat use in horticulture in their Sustainable Growing Media Taskforce – download the report.

What you can do

  • when buying compost, grow bags and other similar products, choose peat-free varieties. The Horticultural Trade Association have produced a Responsible Sourcing Guide available to their members, which includes sourcing sustainable growing media.
  • good alternatives to peat include homemade compost, bark chip, leaf mould, well-rotted farmyard manure or wood waste-based soil conditioners
  • buy plants that have been grown in peat-free soil

Download our Peat Position Statement.