This year I aim to reduce the impact of my gardening on the world around me by making small changes in how I garden and what I use in my garden. With sowing season just around the corner, this is the time I usually head out and pick up compost from the garden centre. Over the winter, I have been listening to Podcasts whilst gardening and one, in particular, sparked my interest. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) produced a podcast, and in one episode, they talked about the impact of using peat in gardening. The podcast reminded me that the actions I take in my garden can, when taken with other gardeners, can make a difference.
In previous years I would buy affordable compost without considering what was in it, but this year, along with making my own compost, I am more conscious about what I buy. No peat will knowingly get into my garden this year.
What is peat?
Peat is plant material accumulated in waterlogged, high acid, nutrient and oxygen-deficient conditions. These conditions result in partially decomposed plant material. Peat has been used in the UK for many years as fuel and to improve the soil. Many peatlands in the UK developed over thousands of years and support unique habitats for plants and animals.
Why go peat-free?
Peat is the largest carbon store on the planet. UK Peatlands contain more carbon than all forests in the UK and France combined. When Peatland is damaged or harvested for fuel and compost, carbon is released, adding to greenhouse gas emissions. If we buy more peat-free compost, companies will reduce the amount of peat being disturbed, and less carbon will be released. Going peat-free is how gardeners can help make the world a little bit healthier.
Can you remove peat from your gardening?
Yes, peat-free options are available.
We have just bought some Miracle-Gro 119766 Premium All-Purpose Compost from our local garden centre. I noticed there weren’t many peat-free options available, but as more people buy the product, the more producer will see there is a demand and start to cater for it. The peat-free compost was more expensive but not as much as I thought. A 40L bag costs around £2 more than a comparable bag of all-purpose compost by the same manufacturer.
There are options to further your compost, such as using coconuts coir, which can be added to peat-free compost or soil to create a 50:50 mix. Coconut coir provides an excellent medium for water retention and aeration.
Making your own compost can help keep costs down and keep peat out of your garden. Composting a mix of green (leafy plants and food waste, etc.) and browns (cardboard, leaves, paper, etc.) will give you a good supply of compost for your garden. This year we are mixing shop-bought and homemade compost, but my plan is to meet all of our compost needs with our homemade compost in the future.
Going peat-free is a small change in how we garden, but it will make a big impact with enough of us making this change.