For peat’s sake remember this deadline, gardeners

 In News

During lockdown householders have been spending more time working on their gardens, including putting peat compost down to improve the soil.

Few probably realise, said Midlands energy expert Ron Fox, that their work is hastening climate change and that is why garden centres are banning the sale of this product by May 2024 at the latest.

“The problem,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd, “is that peatland store a third of the world’s soil carbon, three times as much as forests.

“By digging up the peat, carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas driving climate change, is released into the atmosphere. At the same time, it destroys a vital habitat for wildlife, including hen harriers and short-eared owls.

“Amazingly, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates that UK gardeners generate 630,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year by using peat compost or by buying plants grown in peat.”

This has been made worse because in 2011 there was a voluntary agreement, The England Peat Action Plan, to phase out the compost by 2020.

But that didn’t happen and the majority of compost sold in garden centres is still peat based. Even worse last year sales increased by 9 per cent, accounting for more than two million cubic metres of peat.

“The difficulty is that gardeners, who account for 70 per cent of sales, prefer peat-based compost because it is cheap, holds moisture well, is easy to carry and is believed to be free of plant funguses and virus which could destroy the plants,” added Ron on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park in North Staffordshire.

But he said there were green alternatives to improve the quality of garden soil such as peat-free composts, manure, or people making their own compost heaps from garden and vegetable waste.

Ron also encouraged gardeners to check the labels carefully to ensure there was no peat added in bags of multi-purpose compost.

Although there is a deadline of May 2024 when gardeners will be banned from buying peat, some may bring this forward with Dobbies saying they would stop selling peat in bagged compost next year and B&Q is set to announce a target date shortly.

However, commercial growers may be allowed to continue using it for several more years until 2028 or 2030 with the Horticultural Trades Association saying their growers need more time to find and to get used to good alternatives.

As well as banning the sale of peat compost the Government said £50m of support would be awarded by 2025 to help restore 35,000 hectares of UK peatland, around one per of the total. This would include supporting the “Great North Bog,” which covers large areas from the Peak District to Northumberland.

“This seems a very sensible plan,” said Ron, “and gardeners need to remember the May 2025 deadline and to start using green alternatives to peat-based compost as soon as possible.”

For more information on green projects for your home and garden, call Ron on 0845 474 6641.

Caption: Gardeners will need to find an alternative to peat compost which will be banned by garden centres by May 2024 at the latest with one option being manure.

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