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Why peat-free gardening is essential for the environment

What is peat?

Peat is a type of soil, made up of waterlogged, partially decomposed plant material that has built up over nearly 10,000 years in wetland habitats. It is an important natural resource, as it provides both carbon storage and is a natural flood defense, as it can hold up to 20 times its weight in water!

Beautiful sunrise over peat bogs in North Uist, Scotland.

Beautiful sunrise over peat bogs in North Uist, Scotland.

Why has peat become so popular?

Using peat within the gardening industry has been the norm for decades. However, only for the last twenty years have the issues surrounding peat consumption been recognised.

Peat has become popular in the gardening world because it retains, and contains natural nutrients, due to the presence of partially decomposed plant material. Peat is also great at holding water, these two combined give plants a great start, with minimal effort. Making it very popular with amateur gardeners. Peat-free compost suppliers cannot compete on price, as making a successful peat-free compost requires more time and processing. Peat-free alternatives can include coir, green compost, wood fibre, and composted bark. 

Why is using products containing peat bad for the environment?

Unless your compost is clearly labelled peat-free, most composts contain a whopping 50-70% peat!

Peat that is commonly used in compost is mainly derived from peat bogs. Peat bogs are one of the most important carbon stores, often referred to as carbon sinks. When peat is removed, this quickly releases a large volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

As a carbon store peat holds more carbon than the combined forests of Britain, France, and Germany!!

Peat harvesting on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Peat mining on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

These natural peat bogs are being destroyed to keep up with high consumer demand, this has resulted in 94% of the UK’s peat bogs being destroyed. Just 6000 hectares remain untouched. 

62% of our peat now has to be flown in from other countries, as the UK’s supply has dwindled. Flying peat in from Ireland and the Baltic States results in even more carbon being released into the atmosphere.

Peat bogs are home to many plant and wildlife species that can only survive in the unique environment the peat bogs provide. Mining the bogs for peat destroys their habitats, and threatens the lives of hundreds of species. 

Stacks of peat, recently harvested, ready to be sold to the UK market. 

Why gardeners have been reluctant to change to peat-free

We are creatures of habit, many gardeners will use compost they have used for years, so they know it is both reliable and works well. Some gardeners also tend to buy the lowest priced compost, this is not usually peat-free. Peat free composts also had a bad reputation up until recently, now they are recognised to be just as good. A Which? Survey found that peat-free composts performed better than peat-based rivals in the growing of potted plants and potatoes.

Why we are peat-free here at Seed n Sow

Here at Seed n Sow, we pride ourselves on being an environmentally friendly company, we don’t want to cause any unnecessary damage to the earth. That’s why we only give our customers organic, peat-free compost with our All In One and Seed n Sow Signature Seed Kits! Our biodegradable seed tray and pots are also peat-free, they are made from 100% fibre, whereas many biodegradable trays and pots available to purchase elsewhere are made up of mostly peat!

The government has set out to eliminate all peat use by all gardeners, growers, and procurers by 2030, by switching to peat-free alternatives!

  But what can you do?

  • Be sure to check that any compost you buy has as little peat in as possible, or even better, completely peat-free.
  • Make your own compost to improve your soil, instead of relying on peat-based options. Look out for our blog post on how to make your own compost!
  • Recycle used compost from pots.
  • When buying potted plants be sure to check they have been grown in peat-free compost.
  • Reuse any plant pots you already own. If you purchase any biodegradable seed trays and pots make sure they are peat-free. 

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