Environmentalists seem to be forging ahead in the peat war, with groups calling for a levy to be paid on all peat products. The question is, are you happy to be a peat-free gardener, or will you pay for the privilege of peat?
Peat has long been a subject of debate in horticultural circles. Some growers and journalists (such as The Sun’s Peter Seabrook) are peat devotees, claiming that it’s essential for healthy plants.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, claim that peat is a valuable wildlife habitat and an important carbon store – and that alternatives to it must be found.
It appears that the government has listened to the environmentalists. Defra is currently consulting the industry about phasing out horticultural peat over the next two decades. So whether gardeners and growers like it or not, it looks as if peat-based compost’s on its way out.
With the peat-free targets in mind, many compost manufacturers are working on alternatives to peat. But bizarrely some are also bringing out products this year that contain more peat than ever – one is said to contain 90% peat.
Levy for peat products
Now conservation groups and gardening suppliers, lead by the RSPB, have called on the government to introduce a levy on peat products bought from garden centres in the March budget – probably at a cost of around £2.40 on a 60 litre bag.
They say that this would encourage consumers to use peat-free alternatives and would also provide funding to restore damaged peat bogs in the UK.
RSPB conservation director Mark Avery says: ‘We have got rid of lead in our petrol, CFCs in our aerosols and DDT in our countryside – so why is this dinosaur industry still lumbering along causing untold damage to our environment?’
How peat-free fares in our trials
Here at Which? Gardening, we’ve yet to find a great peat-free compost for seed sowing or growing on young plants. However we’ve had a Best Buy peat-free compost for plants in containers for two years running, so clearly it is possible to make a good compost that doesn’t contain peat.
Do you think peat in compost rates alongside DDT, CFCs and lead? Are you a die-hard peat fan and are you prepared to pay a levy to keep using it?