If it’s nearly spring, people will be reminding us to avoid using peat …

03 March 2022

Every year about this time we start thinking about what we’re going to grow, in whatever space we have – a houseplant on the windowsill, a pot on a balcony, a few more plants in the garden, an allotment-full of vegetables. And every year about this time, this blog starts banging on about peat, and why we shouldn’t be using it – for example, see here, here and here.

This year we thought we’d do something a little different, and look first at when and why we all started using peat, and how we gradually began to think it was essential (but it isn’t). Then in the following post, we’ll look at ways of cutting down on our use of peat, in addition to just buying peat-free compost (at least one common use can actually waste your money, and damage the soil too); and as there are a few things that have to be done a little differently when moving over to peat-free composts, we’ll look at that, too.

Over the last two or three years there has been a little progress, both in an increased awareness of the problems of using composts based on peat, and on the quality and availability of peat-free composts.

Indeed, we won’t be updating the list of suppliers around Leighton Buzzard this year, for the excellent reason that suddenly most places that sell multipurpose compost are selling peat-free versions, and they’re not necessarily more expensive – though we will look at why it’s worth paying more for any multipurpose compost you buy, to save money in the long run.

For the last ten years, the government has said the problem of using peat can be resolved by voluntary means, run by the horticulture industry. Sadly this hasn’t happened – target after target has been missed, and at the current rate of progress, forecourts will still be piled high with peat-based compost in thirty or forty years, which is far too late for maintaining a liveable planet.

The government recently proposed to ban the use of peat in compost produced for retail use (that’s us) by 2024. As the largest sections of the industry are finding it hard to follow their many colleagues who gave up using peat years ago, it’s proposed that their use of peat will also be banned, but by 2030. Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs), has a current consultation on this, and we urge you to go and complete it at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/soils-and-peatlands/endingtheretailsaleofpeatinhorticulture/

The consultation ends on March 18 2022.