5 peat-free composts for an ecological gardener

Peat to be removed from garden compost by 2024, Country life look for the best ecological and sustainable alternatives to using peat compost in the garden.

With the climate crisis wreaking havoc and disruption in all corners of the world, the focus has rightly been placed on how we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. And when it comes to gardening, there is an environmentally destructive practice that we could do without.

Peat has traditionally been used as a growing medium since at least the mid-twentieth century. But as the gardens flourished, the peatlands (which form over thousands of years) withered and with them a valuable ecosystem, flood risk mitigation and carbon pool also vanished. It is believed that in the last century more than 95% of British peatlands have been destroyed or are in degraded condition.

Here’s another shock: It can take a year for the peat to grow by a millimeter. Alarmingly, this means that commercial extraction can suppress over 500 years of “growth” in a single year.

At a time when we should be doing everything to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, digging a large reservoir of carbon for our ornamentals does not seem such a smart idea, yet home gardening accounts for 70% of land use. peat. The good news is that a shift in consumer demand can help us protect and restore our peatlands. After all, peat can only help us fight the climate crisis if we leave it in the ground.

With big names like the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) announcing their intention to get rid of peat moss by 2025, what can we, home gardeners, do at home?

5 ecological and sustainable alternatives to peat compost

1. Go coco for coco

Favored by Monty Don and the National Trust, coconut bricks made from coconuts are quickly becoming a popular alternative to peat. And for good reason. Usually sold in compressed bricks that expand when you add water, coconut is natural, biodegradable, and much easier to transport than 50L bags.

Made from coconut shells (a byproduct of the coconut industry), coconut coir has an open structure that is ideal for seedlings and root cuttings. In addition to using coir to make your own blend, there is a whole range of coir products, including coir with added nutrients or perlite (for extra drainage). While coir loses an ecological point for the shipping process, it uses waste material so overall it’s still a much more sustainable alternative to peat-based compost.

The best choice: Facing the crisis of both peat and plastic at the same time, For the love of peat offers 11.5 liter coconut bricks in recyclable paper packaging. This particular coir does not contain any added nutrients, so you might want to keep some fertilizer on hand (especially for potted plants).

2. Wise to the wool

From sleek insulation mats to less glamorous uses as a slug repellant, wool is a popular material in the home and garden. So it’s no surprise that it has also proven to be a useful potting medium. In addition to ticking the natural, renewable, and biodegradable boxes, wool is excellent at trapping moisture and acts as a slow release nitrogen fertilizer. What’s more, it has been found that wool also contains beneficial trace elements including potassium, sodium, iron, and phosphorus, which means your plants won’t suffer if you forget to fertilize.

The best choice: Wool is the staple ingredient of the established compost brand Dalefoot Compost (alongside the Lake District Fern) (BUY NOW). Its 100% peat-free range is also certified Soil Association, therefore a win-win for organic producers.

3. Feel good in the woods

Most peat-free composts contain some kind of wood, whether it’s composted bark, sawdust, wood, or waste paper. Wood-based mixes are a good all-rounder in the garden because they drain well and have a low pH. Wood chips make an excellent mulch and can sometimes be picked up for free from arborists. However, the quality of bagged items may vary. Look for Forest Stewardship certification as the wood is more likely to be a by-product of sustainably managed UK forests.

The best choice: SylvaGrow multi-purpose wood-based compost from Melcourt (BUY NOW), is free from peat, green waste (so less likely to harbor disease) and animal manure, which also makes it vegan. Plus, it’s RHS approved and produced in the UK, reducing your carbon footprint. Recurring customer? See if your local garden center offers their bags for life.

4. Have confidence in your home compost

To really improve your peat-free compost game, try making your own. The perfect blend will strike a balance between greens (moist, nitrogen-rich stuff such as fruit and vegetable scraps and grass clippings) and browns (dry carbon-releasing waste such as crumpled paper, cardboard, and grass). Straw). By immersing yourself in earth-based crafts, you will prevent food waste from going to landfill and your plants will be fed for free (so you can spend your money on fancy gardening tools). And when fall arrives, the piles of fallen leaves aren’t just fun to throw away, they can be turned into the crème de la crème of garden mulch: Gardener’s Gold (also known as leaf mold). ).

READ: 7 things to know before you start composting

5. Master the soil with Biochar

Considered a carbon storage savior, Biochar is just the right thing for climate-conscious gardeners. Biochar is basically a form of charcoal, which is made when organic material is heated to a high temperature (the technical term is pyrolysis). In addition to blocking carbon, Biochar is a hit among commercial growers for its ability to stimulate plant growth.

The best choice: Carbon Gold 100% peat-free biochar blends (BUY NOW) have been used to nourish entire orchards, Premier League soccer fields and royal parks, so your garden should be in good hands with this soil.

Still worried that this batch won’t compare to your normal compost? The ERS, which is 98% peat-free, found that “the trials of most plants grown in peat alternatives are comparable to those grown in peat,” so there is no excuse not to go to compost without peat.

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