Peatlands take thousands of years to form, locking in carbon and providing valuable wildlife habitats – so choosing peat-free compost over peat is the easiest, yet biggest impact you can have on the climate. Time to shatter some myths…
Myth 1: “Peat-free compost is hard to get hold of”
Peat-free compost is becoming much more widely available. You can buy peat-free bags direct from Melcourt, who produce Slyva Grow, DaleFoot Composts, Fertile Fibre, Earth Cycle. Or, in the case of Carbon Gold and Bloomin Amazing from online stockists. But milk and veg delivery schemes, such as Milk and More and smaller nurseries are also able to deliver in certain locations. They key thing is, if we don’t demand good-quality peat-free, garden centres and supermarkets won’t stock it. Remember to also look out for the ‘hidden peat’ in pot plants – and demand the horticultural industry start to use peat-free.
Myth 2: “Peat-free compost is too expensive”
Peat-free compost is competitively priced given that it is good-quality compost that takes time to make. A lot of expertise goes into a bag of peat-free, whereas a bag of peat can cost the earth. What would you prefer to pay for? If you club together with an allotment group, you can buy in bulk from many suppliers – cutting the cost of shop-bought bags and benefiting from bigger discounts. Creating a beautiful garden shouldn’t be at the expense of the planet.
Every time, you buy a bag of peat compost you are helping to destroy invaluable habitats for flora and fauna and contributing to carbon dioxide and methane levels, which are released into the atmosphere when peat is harvested. Up to 95% of the UK’s lowland peat bogs have been destroyed or damaged. Peat bogs regenerate at such a slow rate they are not considered renewable, so buying peat-free is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Myth 3: “Peat-free is not as good as peat compost”
This is not true. Dozens of trials have been running across the country, which show peat-free performs as well as peat – and sometimes better. Suttons Seeds produces all its seeds and plants using peat-free compost. The National Trust uses it across its estate and the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens are 97% peat free. Many RHS Chelsea Flower Show medal winners swear by it, and, of course, Monty Don loves it!
Try to choose a good-quality peat-free over the ‘pile-them-high’ cheap bags, which can be dusty and nutrient poor. These are the bags that can sometimes give peat-free a bad reputation. As with any bagged compost, it’s important to monitor the health of your plants regularly but for perfect peat-free projects every time, consider the following:
- Water little and often. Some peat-free composts can look dry on the surface when in reality they are damp underneath, so use the finger test. Or, pick up your planter – if it feels light, it probably needs a water.
- Don’t compress. It’s best to tap the soil in the pot rather than firming in plants so they’re not planted too deep.
- Pep up. Just as you would with any bagged compost – add homemade compost, vermiculite and fertilisers to increase structure and nutrient levels.
- Experiment. Try different types and brands of peat-free until you find one that suits you, your garden and your conditions.