A new report reveals just how badly the horticultural industry is progressing in the move towards peat-free growing media. It makes depressing reading.
Researchers from Coventry University found that progress towards the ‘voluntary’ targets to ban peat from horticulture, set by the government in 2010, is woefully slow. The industry was tasked to completely remove peat from retail (amateur use) by 2020, and from commercial use by 2030.
Instead, the report reveals that peat still constitutes 50% of all potting composts. Which means peat bogs are still plundered, biodiversity threatened and a huge release of carbon gases continues, contributing to the climate emergency.
DEFRA‘s recent figures (2018/19) show that retail sales – ie the bags of potting compost that gardeners buy – has reduced peat consumption by just under 12%. And shockingly, in the professional sector, ie the plants grown in nurseries and sold at garden centres, have only managed a marginal reduction of just 1%.
As Monty Don recently said in his scathing comments on garden centres who still use peat in their potting mixes, "Don’t buy plants that are grown in peat. No garden centre should stock these things. If they do, then they are actively choosing to do harm.”
The authors recommend that horticultural trade needs to:
- Address the issue of sourcing peat-alternatives.
- Engage the retail sector to ensure their full commitment to promoting new generation peat-free growing media.
- Promote a knowledge exchange with commercial growers to increase their use of peat-free media.
- Develop clear climate change impacts messaging about the impacts of growing media and horticultural more broadly.
- Ensure that data on growing media production and sales trends is collected and communicated in a transparent way. (Even data gathering on peat use is inadequately done by the industry, claims the report authors, with no reliable data for 2016/17.)
Garden Organic welcomes this report, and heartily endorses Don’s comments.
“We strongly encourage growers to make the decision to go peat free,” says James Campbell, Garden Organic Chief Executive.
“Our campaign, For Peat’s Sake, helps gardeners to make their own potting compost. And we urge you – if you are buying bags of the stuff – to spend that little bit more and choose peat-free, ideally in a big which is labelled ‘certified organic’. Your plants will be healthy, and you can be assured that your gardening is not damaging the planet.”
The report also welcomes the new initiative, known as the RSMGM (Responsible Sourcing and Manufacture of Growing Media). This entails a ‘calculator’ which assesses the environmental and social sustainability of potting compost components, such as peat, coir, wood products etc. It uses seven criteria: energy use; water use; social compliance; habitat and biodiversity; pollution; renewability; and resource use efficiency. It is hoped that manufacturers adopt this rating system and label their products accordingly – allowing consumers to make an informed choice.
For Peat’s Sake
We offer advice here on how to be truly sustainable and make your own potting mixes. Saving money and the planet.
We also urge you to join our campaign For Peat’s Sake. We help you transition away from peat in potting mixes, and we can support your demand that your local garden centre does the same.