Do you use peat in your garden - I wish you wouldn't!  About 70% of UK peat use is through retail sales to you and me (except not me - so it must be you).

Peat doesn't come from bags - it comes from peatlands and its mining destroys peat habitats and its use leads to totally unnecessary increased carbon emissions.  Annual carbon dioxide emissions from horticultural peat use are 630,000 tonnes.  That's a lot of carbon.

We have been banging on about alternatives to peat for garden use for ages now and I know that many RSPB members have reduced or eliminated their peat use.  I'm no gardener - I'm really not - but I am told by those who are that good alternatives to peat are available.

And governments always prefer asking people, rather quietly, to use less peat.  It's that voluntary Big Society thing - although that's also the approach that the previous Labour government relied on too.  And we know it doesn't work very well.

Back in the 1990s - remember them? - a target was set for 90% of materials used in growing media and soil improvers to be non-peat alternatives by 2010.  The target was missed by 32%.  And things aren't getting better very quickly - between 2007 and 2009 total UK peat use fell by a very small 1.63%.  That's not a great success for the voluntary approach.

Since the Government is looking for green taxes - I can't help but think a tax on peat use might be a good one. 


  • To see some of the reasons why many gardeners are indifferent or even hostile to ending the use of fossil reserves of peat for making compost there's a good and lively discussion underway here:

    You might want to chip in...

  • I agreee totally with jockeyshield. Wedholme Flow National Nature Reserve and others in Cumbria have been rewetted to such an extent that breeding populations of lowland grouse have been made locally extinct. Wedholme Flow is now a vast lake used by roosting geese and swans . There have been upto 600 whooper swans roosting here and with excessive nitrates introduced from excreta there is no way that sphagnum mosses will thrive. Glasson Moss National Nature Reserve has been blanket sprayed with herbicide to destroy birch, but bog myrtle and heather has also been destroyed . What was a fantastic  wildlife site with thousands of orb web spiders and feeding dragonflies is now a wildlife desert. Biological diversity is being destroyed to gain a few points in order to get a bit more government cash. This is not wildlife conservation it is political and economic manoevering

  • There is never any mention about the vast peatlands which are farmed in SE England. Some of these cultivated peat areas have shrunk in volume by a vast amount since the soil has been aerated by ploughing  and fertilisers spread which  increase the rate of  peat breakdown. The total peat loss here must be much greater than that ever used in horticulture. But maybe we shouldn't upset the farmers by stopping this activity !

    Our UK peat resources are a drop in the ocean compared to those of the more northern lands and here a decline in the permafrost  areas of this peat has led to a vast increase in CO2 releases as this peat thaws and decays.Our emmissions of CO2 from peat are miniscule in comparison.

    And what about the irish solid fuel electric generators which burn peat as a source of fuel. I am sure that no attempt  will have been made to stop  this.

    And what of the solutions? : perhaps ship  a finite quantity of coconut fibre half way around the world at even higher environmental costs.

    Most of the  horticultural industry has attempted to lower the amount of peat used. Growing compost can be composed of sterilised loam, composted bark, chippings and a much lower proportion of peat. It is possible to use  30% of previous peat usage without much problem. Composts with no peat cause massive problems with water retention and many horticultural firms have tried peat free composts and found that they were unsuitable.

    There is a type of solution and this is to use blond peat from russia. This peat is only a year or two old and can be harvested on a sustainable basis, in that the sphagnum is growing and is being replenished  as fast as it is being harvested. It still has the same water retention properties.

  • Think you missed the first bit of my first comment just use small amount each year for seeds would guess about 1kg and would not like to do without that and while not wishing to sound complacent think that amount is not very damaging.

  • I was at a meeting yesterday with the National Trust and Kew Gardens where they are both practically peat-free - that's their aim anyway.  So if organisations whose gardens are subject to intense public srcrutiny can be peat-free I'm sure you can Sooty!  But as I say - I'm no gardener myself.