Action to save bogs – #PeatFreeApril

Blawhorn Moss NNR and Flanders Moss NNR

On the UK Government Petitions site a recent petition calling for the banning of peat compost finished early due to the general election. The petition said:

Peat is vital in the fight against climate breakdown as it stores vast amounts of carbon. It also provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. Therefore we should not be using peat compost to improve the soil in our gardens. Other organic matter is available and is effective for growers.

Despite running for a reduced time over 12,000 people signed it so triggering a written response (full response here) from the UK government that highlighted the action it was taking in this matter.

Back in 2011 the UK government set a voluntary target to phase out horticultural peat in the amateur sector by 2020, and in the professional sector in 2030. Whilst the volume of peat used in horticulture has seen a small decline in recent years – in England the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimates that about 60% of UK composts sold are peat-free, – it is clear that a voluntary ban hasn’t worked and a stronger approach is required as peat compost is still readily available. DEFRA says that it is considering a ban among other measures, but we will need to wait to see what they decide once the English Peat Strategy is published.

In the meantime work is being carried out to look at peat alternatives that could be used for amateur gardens and those working in the commercial sector. Central Government is due to publish the results of research completed in Dec 2019 later in the year. In Scotland the Scottish Government is putting money into research for horticulture peat alternatives, and also developing a plan for the peat industry to help phase out the use of peat products.

However, while this work is going on and policies are decided, guidelines written, companies change business plans and new products are researched 0.8 million tons of peat is being harvested (0.5 million in Scotland and 0.3 million tons in England). In England that is 624 ha of peatland across 24 sites which is an area 3/4 the size of Flanders Moss going the same way that Flanders so nearly did – disappearing. And on top of this 2/3’s of peat sold in the UK comes from other European countries where their peatlands are being destroyed only to improve the soils in our gardens.

Of course you don’t have to wait for the government ban, you could just make a policy decision yourself and go peat-free in your garden and support a number of peat-free initiatives. You could:

  • Make you own growing medium (so saving money) by home composting;
  • Buy peat-free compost from your local garden centre or the nearest one that actually sells it;
  • Buy peat-free compost by mail order;
  • Support a peat free garden centre that doesn’t use peat as a growing medium;
  • Join the PeatFreeApril campaign – follow on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Read this previous blog post here and follow the links for lots of good information.
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