Peat compost: Alternatives that perform ‘better’ than peat – why you should stop using it

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The carbon in peat, when spread on a field or garden, turns quickly into carbon dioxide. This is adding to greenhouse gases, causing it to be unsustainable. According to one expert, there are many alternatives that can perform better than peat.

Peat compost can still be purchased, despite the worry surrounding it.

It has been a popular compost material over the years as it is free draining and ideal for young seeds to develop.

However, recent figures from Natural England show that exposed peat soils can release up to 38 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare every year.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that the sales of peat compost to gardeners will be banned from 2024, forcing gardeners to look for alternatives.

Craig Sams, Executive Chairman of Carbon Gold and former Chair of the Soil Association, explained: “There are a range of peat-free composts available.

“Composted green waste can be used as a low-cost alternative but is high maintenance and can contain toxic residues, such as herbicides that are damaging to plants.

“Wood chip-based composts are cleaner and have a longer life but don’t always perform as well as peat-based composts.

“For those looking to garden more sustainably without compromising on results, peat-free composts containing biochar, a pure, high-carbon form of charcoal, offer a fantastic solution.

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“Biochar-based composts which incorporate coir from coconut husks are proven to perform better than peat and are effective in preventing pests and disease whilst actively boosting plant health and vitality.

“Biochar-based products don’t break down over time, so they are a permanent improvement to your soil.

“They also help you to reduce your personal carbon footprint because you are burying carbon underground where it will remain for hundreds, if not thousands of years.”

Monty Don also recently called on gardeners to stop using peat.

Writing in his latest blog post, the expert explained: “No one should use peat in their garden for any reason, ever.

“There are three reasons for this. Any one of these is good enough on its own but the combination of all three is overwhelming evidence.

“The first reason is because peat is a carbon sink as effective as forest or meadow.

“When we rip it up by the thousands of tonnes with huge machinery, we are actively increasing global warming. If you buy it then you are part of the process.”

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Monty also explained that peat bogs are a unique habitat that establishes very slowly.

He wrote: “Peat can take a year just to increase by one millimetre. That is about one inch every 25 years. Vast extraction machinery will take out metres of peat at a time and thus destroy thousands of years of habitat. No garden plant, no garden, is worth that.”

Monty added that there are enough alternatives on the market to stop the use of peat.

He added: “Only purchase composts that are clearly labelled ‘peat-free’. Ask if the plants at your garden centre are potted in peat and boycott them if they are.

“If the demand dries up, so will the supply. It is up to us.”

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