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Are you still using Peat Compost? Why you should consider making a change

Most people wouldn't expect the amateur gardening community to be one of the major sources of environmental damage. Hobbyists carrying on the long tradition of nurturing plants, are hardly the typical environmental villains. However in the past few years, it has become increasingly common to hear the gardening community being condemned for their destructive behaviour toward perhaps the last genuinely unspoiled wilderness habitat in Britain.  

  1. Its Environmental impact

Peat compost is only available from certain places- known as peat bogs- that make up 2% of the earth’s land. Of this, 15% is in the UK- about 12% of the country and 23% of Scotland. While it takes thousands of years to appear, UK amateur gardeners alone can consume millions of cubic feet of compost each year. Because of its many unique properties and fantastic plant nutrition, peat bogs are some of the most fertile places around- and host to a huge number of plants, insects and animals. Yet almost 95% of UK peat bogs have already been destroyed, leaving only 6,000 hectares in the whole of the UK. Moreover, peat bogs contain huge amounts of carbon- around the same of 20 years’ worth of industrial pollution just in the UK. Peat absorbs and traps carbon in the atmosphere, yet when disturbed or exposed to pollution it will release Co2- in the Peak District, bogs now release the equivalent of 18,000 cars per year thanks to pollution from nearby cities. And this environmental damage is largely due to demand from hobby gardeners, seeking cheap compost. Removing this demand for peat would preserve thousands of rare or unique species of wildlife and be the same as taking 350,000 cars off UK roads.

     2. It’s becoming harder to find

As awareness grows of the damage peat extraction causes to flora and fauna, as well as the ozone layer, more and more peat-free alternatives are appearing on the market and suppliers are under pressure to stock less peat. Domestic composting and similar alternatives are on the increase, meaning many gardeners will have the option to go peat free. While commercial compost ingredients vary even between batches and bags, awareness of what might be inside means more and more people are making more environmentally-conscious choices, and inevitably these are beginning to push the (now, somewhat vilified) peat products out of the market.

    3.Better composts are becoming available!  

While peat-free composts have been around for a while, they aren’t perfect just yet. Some gardeners continue to maintain some plants only grow in peat- although just as many dispute this.  And the alternative, reduced or no-peat composts are not without their problems. Peat free composts are intensively processed and end up heavier, making production and transport more expensive, and using them may require additional work such as sieving from the gardener. It can sometimes be hard to judge whether they require watering, and occasionally their finite nitrogen content may mean the addition of liquid, chemical fertiliser is necessary. However, despite these shortcomings, they are becoming more and more prevalent, and more effective, as gardeners choose the ethical route and the industry responds.