Peat or peat-free?

By Simon Toomer, PlantNetwork Chair

The debate about the use of peat in horticulture seems to have been going for a long time. It’s a subject that divides gardeners between those who believe it’s high time we ended its use all together, to those who think the unique qualities of peat make it essential for growing some kinds of plants. There have been various studies on the environmental impact of peat-use. As well as the direct damage to species-rich peatland habitats, peat extraction results in the release of locked-up carbon into the atmosphere; further fuelling the engine of climate change.  

In 2007 the HTA published their report called Towards Responsible Sourcing and Manufacture of Growing Media. This document provides a comparative assessment of peat alongside a range of alternatives such as coir and wood fibre.  The Government has set various (mainly advisory) targets for eliminating peat-use but, despite these, UK horticulture continues to consume about 2.2 million cubic metres of peat per year – mostly from Ireland. The Government’s 25 year Environment Plan makes explicit reference to peat so perhaps a more robust ban is on the way.

What do you think about peat-use in Horticulture? Do you have particular experience of peat-free growing or are you interested in finding out more? If so, we want to hear from you.