Converted, for peat’s sake?

Why is it every decade there seems to be a revisit of the need to emphasise that peat is not an essential component of the gardeners tool / growing shed of resources?

This time The Guardian offers the confessions of past peat user Robbie Backhall-Miles who explains “Why I changed my mind about peat”. It’s worth a read, B-M says there’s no excuses for continued use of peat by gardeners and even infers horticulturalists as well?  We’d agree but we’d also recognise that the big growing media companies still promote peat above alternatives and pedal the usual argument of the need for consistency and reliability in performance for the horticultural trade.  I would dearly like to buy some of the plants offered in nurseries but I will not if I discover they are grown in peat.  That’s peat in every sense be it SSSI peat or from a non SSSI site.

160422 Looking E across GM hrk 195Moody but magnificent so for peat’s sake leave it alone ….

The battle for the bogs here in the Humberhead has been over some five decades or so and whilst the corporate carnage has in the main ceased there is still the issue of hydrological integrity and drainage.  Then there’s pressure on sensitive species from encouraged access.  What should be the priority?  The habitat, the species or people?  Is there potential conflict or can a balance be achieved?

For sure, as a species we are wasteful and generate veritable mountains of rubbish which we have to dispose of.  Much of it is green waste, be it municipal landscaping off-cuts or our grass cuttings.  If this is composted then it can be used to improve soils.  If it is commercially composted and processed through a rigorous routine then it can be used to grow plants.  One such excellent product was Terra Eco’s peat free compost.  This used straw, an agri-industry by product and Thames Water treated waste*.  Morally when you see the damage out there on damaged or destroyed peat bogs and then factor in the loss of carbon sequestration opportunity ask yourself …. do you really need peat as a growing medium?  But, like so many issues we leave it to market forces supported by massive advertising campaigns to ‘sell’ us the need.

*Evans T.D. (2009) Using composted biosolids as a peat replacement. Proc. 14th European Biosolids and Organic Resources Conf., November 2009, Lowe P.(ed), Aqua Enviro, Leeds, UK

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