For peat’s sake …. ‘tea-bag technology’ brings hope & a rethink on packaging?

There are some good alternatives on the market, the problem seems to be locating stockists.

There are some good alternatives on the market, the problem seems to be locating stockists.

The UK is a nation of graden lovers, but sadly many are still unaware or oblivious to the environmental damage our hobby can do and I’d like to think that’s the last thing anyone would want to unwittingly do.  For decades peat has been marketed as the best growing medium for plants, such is the persuasion of advertising and our hectic lifestyles where just about everything is sourced at some ‘supermarket’ or other.  Thankfully bags of peat are a marginally rarer species in the garden centres than they were a decade or so ago, but whilst we may have slowed the assault on UK peatlands, or at least those with SSSI status and reduced the peat content we still import millions of cubic metres from the Baltic bogs, from Ireland, from China and other countries who need easy revenue.  Effectively therefore a case could be made that all we achieved was to export the problem?

I’m sure we all remember over a decade or so ago the promotion of coir (waste coconut husk) as an alternative growing medium, well B & Q (and hopefully others) have recently announced that they will be using corn starch teabags full of coir to grow a range of 20 popular bedding in, and another bonus is that those ever lasting polystyrene trays are to go as well!  They will be replaced by recyclable ones.  I’m not one for ‘celebrities’ being used to promote recycled policies (we were hearing similar noises twelve years ago) but Emilia Fox did a reasonably persuasive job, and our old friend Dr Olly Watts recycled the habitat loss reminders.  This update appeared on the IUCN Peatland website on 1 April so I think whilst it is a step forward it would be wise to see if the replacement extends wider than the first 20 popular varieties?  But sales and feedback will drive policy?

How many remember the presentation by Stewart Henchie of Kew Gardens at the Scunthorpe Conference in 2002?  For me his message was quite clear, it’s not the growing medium per se that’s important, but the management of it.  So, why is it that we still succumb to the marketing PR of the multinationals every spring when we head for the garden centres or supermarkets?

So, as you head for the garden centres spare a thought for the unique wildlife that peat extraction destroys, make your purchases wisely as each one sends an important message to corporations about ethical practices.  When I have been unable to find peat free compost in garden centres, I’ve taken the trouble to explain why I have not made cany purchase from the store.  Has it done any good, I don’t know but if you don’t register customer comments then they will carry on with environmentally damaging practices for sure!


Round-leaved Sundew (above), a bog speciality that would be lost to peat cutting as would the delightful Bog-Rosemary below. 

You need to get down to her level to really appreciate the beauty of Andromeda

You need to get down to her level to really appreciate the beauty of Andromeda.


The best peat free seed medium I’ve used has been Petersfield Supreme, but the issue is locating stockists as this product is one used by the trade and not a retail product.  TERRA ECO*SYSTEMS (Thames Water) peat free (good potting on compost) can be sourced locally and used to be available at the Old Moor Nature Reserve.

If anyone can offer updates on availability of either product, then please drop us a line via


Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: