Guide to peat-free gardening
Peatlands store carbon, control flooding and create homes for wildlife. When peat is extracted from these special landscapes, they’re damaged forever. Read our top tips for gardening with peat-free compost – and why we’re working hard to stop using peat, especially at the gardens in our care.
Why is peat so important?
Peatlands act as a carbon store, provide a great habitat for wildlife, play their part in water management and can even preserve archaeological items. They’re being damaged by drainage, over-grazing, burning and extraction for use as a fuel – and in garden compost.
We’re working hard to reverse the negative impacts on the peatlands in our care, but much of the peat in compost sold in the UK comes from peatlands elsewhere in Europe. We have a responsibility to protect these precious habitats too.
We’re one of the first organisations to commit to going peat free. All the plants we grow, buy and sell are potted in peat-free compost, and we never use peat for mulching or soil improvement.
You can make a big difference by going peat free in your own garden, allotment or balcony planters. You can also encourage retailers and the Government in their efforts to phase out the use of peat in gardening products.
Top tips for peat-free gardening
- Buy peat-free potting compost for raising plants in pots. Mix it with garden soil for plants that will be in their pots for more than a year.
- Try to buy plants that have been grown in peat-free compost. You may need to ask the nursery or garden centre about this.
- Sow seeds of hardy plants directly into the soil to reduce the need for pots or compost.
- Order shrubs, trees and even perennials ‘bareroot’ in winter to cut down on plastic pots and peat-based compost.
- Collect fallen leaves and let them rot down into leaf-mould, which makes a great base for your own homemade potting compost.
- Mulch bare soil between plants or under shrubs to lock in moisture, stop weeds and enrich the soil. Use homemade garden compost or composted green waste rather than expensive, bagged multipurpose or potting compost.
- Peat-free composts will be clearly labelled on their packaging. If in doubt, speak to a sales assistant who can help you make the right choice.
All the plants propagated at the Plant Conservation Centre in Devon are grown without peat – even the trickiest of specimens.
Originally the team at the centre mixed their own potting compost by hand, using a blend of coir, loam, leaf mould and potting grit. Now, they use some of the excellent ready-made peat-free mixes available, which contain a mix of fine-grade bark, coir and loam.
With expert care, even ericaceous (acid-loving) plants like rhododendrons, heather and camellias can grow and thrive without peat.
Discover the four vital ways peat supports the environment, from carbon store to archaeological record, and see some of the key projects protecting the peatland in our care.
Play your part by learning how to reduce your carbon footprint and reducing plastic waste. Plus, find out how to join the Great Big Green Week campaign.