A blog posted on behalf of Adrian Thomas.

Peat is precious. It grows at about one metre every thousand years, which works out at a measly one millimetre a year.

Many of you will be aware of the long-running campaign we have waged against the mass extraction of peat for the horticulture industry, and the harm it is doing to rare and threatened wildlife in the peat bogs. Here's one of the nation's best preserved lowland peat bog, called Cors Caron National Nature Reserve in Mid Wales, which I have been lucky enough to visit in the past. It was glorious!

Peatlands are a crucial store of carbon, and their protection is vital in our fight against climate change.

(If you’ve ever wondered exactly why this is, what happens is that sphagnum moss in a peat bog turns atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbon-filled plant tissue. That doesn't decompose in the wet, dark, airless layers that build up over time; effectively the carbon gets locked away in solid form. Extract the peat and it pretty quickly (over just a few years) decomposes, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere).

Peatlands are also precious places for wildlife. However, they are under threat. Around the world they are dug for peat for use as soil conditioners in our gardens, they are drained, converted to farming and forestry, and they are burned.

But all is not lost. There are plenty of good alternatives (you can find some here) that use sustainable materials such as coconut or wood fibre. I’ve been peat-free for over 20 years now, and I think these alternatives are getting better and better. I still sieve it to make seed compost, and mix it with some perlite or vermiculite (below). But I'd happily use any of the major brand peat-free composts these days.

And for simple potting on, they usually get great results without any preparation at all. If you fancy learning how to make your own compost then head over to the Nature on Your Doorstep section of our website, here. 

We can all to do our bit for peat. The RSPB and partners must keep up the pressure on the major outlets to better label their products. And as gardeners we must continue to do what we can to seek out peat-free composts, get used to using them, and spread the word. 

If you haven’t made the switch yet, why not pledge to go peat-free? And if you have, share your tips for using peat-free compost with friends and family to help others make the change.  

By choosing peat free compost when gardening, you’ll be helping to keep peatlands, a precious ancient habitat, alive. Storing an estimated 3,200 million tonnes of carbon (CO2), UK peatlands are important for nature and climate, providing a vital home for a variety of plants and wildlife. When peat is removed for the sale of compost, this fragile habitat is dismantled, and CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. Join our campaign #forpeatssake from 14 October 2021 here.