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Why going peat-free is essential for the planet

With the lack of education for the general public on what peatlands are and how important they are for our natural environment, many people are unaware of implications of buying peat-based products (e.g. compost) for their garden.

Peatlands (more commonly referred to as bogs or fens) are unique landscapes which cover around 10% of U.K land area (IUCN, 2021), and they are vital in the fight surrounding climate change. According to the National Trust, worldwide peatlands hold twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. They are very important habitats for wildlife, but the extraction of peat for horticultural use and gardening (among other uses) means that the carbon stored in peatlands is being released into the environment, which equates to more than 5% of all global carbon emissions, according to the IUCN.

A significant proportion of the peat found in compost in the U.K. is sourced from elsewhere in Europe, so going peat-free not only helps towards the protection of our own landscapes, but also these important ecosystems throughout the continent. Blanket bogs (a main source of peat) are rare around the world, but the U.K. holds approximately 13% of all worldwide blanket bogs, so we have a responsibility to lead the way on peat-free products.

The U.K. government has mandated a ban on peat-based compost sold in garden centres by 2024. This is a great step for the industry, but its effectiveness will also depend on the outcome of a further consultation on whether to also ban plants grown in peat abroad e.g. in the Netherlands. In the U.K. we import many plants from the Netherlands and more widely in Europe, so it is important that these are also grown in peat-free compost.

There have been many improvements in peat-free compost over the last few years. According to the RHS, a mix of coarse and fine particles is needed to create a balanced compost containing enough water and air, which are essential for root growth. Therefore, peat-free compost can be composed of composted bark, coir (coconut fibre), woodfibre and green compost with added coarse materials such as grit, sharp sand, and rock wool.

At Muddy Trowel, we have sold peat-free compost since we started in 2020. We recently started stocking Miraclegro peat-free compost, which has all-purpose, organic and ericaceous varieties. This is brilliant for all your plant growing needs. Switching to peat-free is one of the single-best ways in gardening to be less damaging for the environment, and the more of us that make this switch, the more the big players in this industry will pay attention.