Going peat-free

Holcombe Moor, near Manchester, transformed into a 'giant sponge' with thousands of peat bunds visible from the air

Protecting peatlands is one of the most important natural ways of healing climate harm. These special landscapes store carbon, control flooding and create homes for wildlife.

Find out why it's essential for gardeners to go peat-free and what we're doing to protect peatlands around the world.

In May 2021, the UK Government said that it would take steps towards banning the sale of peat and products containing peat in garden centres by 2024. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the formal consultation process to begin. We’re therefore calling on the Government to take urgent action to end the use of peat for horticultural purposes as soon as possible to protect peatlands not only in the UK but around the world.

We work to protect and restore peatland landscapes such as Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire

Global call to ban the use of peat in compost  

During COP26 (31 October to 12 November) we teamed up with National Trusts from around the world to call for an urgent ban on the use of peat in compost. Organisations from Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Guernsey, Indonesia and Jersey are among those calling for the ban to help tackle the nature and climate crises.

Why is peat so important?

Peatlands are vital in the fight against both the causes and effects of climate change. Peatlands around the world hold twice as much carbon than the world’s forests, while offering precious habitats for vital wildlife and plant species, as well as preserving high quality archaeological sites. But extraction, draining damage and other activities means that carbon stored by peatlands is being released. This equates to more than 5 per cent of all global human carbon emissions. 

We look after 40 peatland Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 3 per cent of the UK's raised bogs, significant fens and valley mires, and huge tracts of blanket bog. Our peatlands in England and Wales hold 2 per cent of the total carbon in the UK, in soil and vegetation.

Some of our peatland has been damaged in the past by drainage, over-grazing, burning and extraction. We’re working hard to reverse these negative impacts and are now managing and restoring many of our sites to create resilient eco-systems, which will increase carbon storage capacity and reduce emissions.

But much of the peat found in the compost available in the UK now comes from peatlands elsewhere in Europe and we have a responsibility to protect these precious habitats from the problems we've experienced.

How you can help

You can help by buying peat-free compost for use in your own garden or allotment, and encouraging retailers and the Government in their efforts to phase out the use of peat in gardening products.

Top tips for peat-free gardening

Rebecca Bevan, Senior National Consultant for Cultivated Plants at the National Trust, shares her advice for peat-free gardening.

  1. 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.
  2. Try to buy plants that have been grown in peat-free compost. You may need to ask the nursery or garden centre about this.
  3. Sow seeds of hardy plants directly into the soil to reduce the need for pots or compost.
  4. Order shrubs, trees and even perennials ‘bareroot’ in winter to cut down on plastic pots and peat-based compost.
  5. Collect fallen leaves and let them rot down into leaf-mould which makes a great base for your own homemade potting compost.
  6. 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.

How to make garden compost

Head Gardener Nick Fraser operates an organic, no-dig garden at Nunninton Hall in Yorkshire. In this video, he shares his tips for making really good garden compost which he adds to his peat-free potting compost mixes.

Close-up of Rhododendron 'Creek's Cross' flowering at Trengwainton

Even our trickiest plants are grown using peat-free compost 

Chris Trimmer, Nursery Manager at the Plant Conservation Centre, tells us about how he and his team garden peat-free.

Wardens at work on the High Peak Estate

Key peatland projects 

Find out how we're protecting peatland across the UK with some of our key projects.

The National Trust omega sign at Ewe Moor, Malham Tarn Estate, North Yorkshire

Protecting the peatlands at Malham Tarn 

Malham Tarn's peat bogs have been damaged not just by peat-cutting, but also by livestock grazing and the cutting of drainage ditches. The restoration of the bogs will benefit local wildlife and return the area to its natural state.

Sheep at Edale Rocks on Kinder Scout under a blue sky with clouds and the moorland behind.

High Peak Moors, Derbyshire 

The High Peak Moors, part of the Peak District National Park, are a life support system for the people who live and work there. Find out what plans are in place to protect them for future generations.