How to go peat free at home
Go peat free to protect the planet!
Peat has been a major ingredient of the compost used in gardening for many years. This peat is dug out of wild places, damaging some of the last remaining peatlands in both the UK and overseas in places like Eastern Europe. This process also releases carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change. Sadly, more than 94% of the UK’s lowland peat bogs have been destroyed or damaged, and a wealth of wildlife has disappeared along with it. This vital habitat isn't easily replaced.
Peat-free growing media, including compost and soil conditioners, are increasingly available however many products still use peat as their organic ingredient. Even ‘Low peat’ products, those that claim to be from ‘sustainable sources’ and the soil in potted plants can still contain a high proportion of peat.
Top tips on going peat free
1. Check all purchases - specifically labeled peat free compost is available, you may need to shop around to find it. However peat's not just in the bagged soil that we buy. It's also used for many of our potted plants and shrubs, or the soil 'plugs' or 'pellets' that often come in gift boxes or similar, that you add water to to hydrate. Check labels for peat-based materials, and make sure that peat is not a component of potted house plants or indoor potting mix too.
2. Be vocal - the more we ask for peat-free options, the more likely stores will stock it. Help demonstrate consumer demand for peat free options by asking your local retailer what’s available.
3. Use alternatives - there are a number of peat-free alternatives; all providing different conditions for growing. The best thing to use will depend on what you want to grow and the existing soil you have in your garden. You may want to research and experiment with:
- Bark chippings
- Wood fibre
4. Look for retailers that are committed to phasing out peat sales
The Wildlife Trusts recently undertook a survey of some major retailers: the table below includes some of the findings from this and a few additional retailers that have been in contact with us since. Please note this is not an exhaustive list of retailers.
|Retailer / grower||Current retail offer||Commitment (as of March 2021)|
90% of compost sales are peat-free
Plans to go 100% peat-free in 2021
|Dobbies||Peat-free products are available, including a range of trees, shrubs and plants grown peat-free||
Plans to go 100% peat-free by 2022 (and 90% peat-free in 2021)
Introducing a new range of peat-free products
|RHS||All compost sold is peat-free||Plans for all gardens, show displays and plant sales to be peat-free by 2025|
|Wickes||Some peat-free products available||
Plans to phase out peat sales by 2025
Launching new peat-free product in 2021
Tree production is 100% peat free
Recently launched new, own-brand compost
Plans for all plants across their nurseries to be peat-free by 2022
Plans to phase out peat sales in garden centres but no end date given
Some peat-free products available
Launched new, own-brand compost in 2020
|Plans to phase out peat sales but no end date given|
|Blue Diamond||Stock 22 different peat-free growing media products (some are currently being trialled)||Plans to phase out peat sales but no end date given|
|Asda||Some peat-free products available||
Plans to phase out all peat sales but no end date given
Plan to remove peat from own-brand products by 2030
|Tesco||Some peat-free products available||Aiming for 'minimal use' of peat in the future (no further details given)|
|Co-op||Plans to phase out all peat sales but no end date given|
|Lidl||Plans to phase out all peat sales but no end date given|
What is peat?
Peat is made up of decayed organic matter and vegetation, developing slowly under particular, wet conditions over thousands of years. Peat can be found in wetlands such as bogs and moors, and its composition makes it home to a unique ecosystem.
Peat bogs are home to all sorts of plants, including colourful sphagnum mosses, insect-eating plants, and curious plants such as ‘butterwort’ and ‘bog myrtle’. They also provide an environment for rare dragonflies, spiders and other invertebrates, and a feeding ground for birds, such as golden plover, meadow pipit and skylark.
When it comes to climate change, peatlands are vital. The excess carbon in our atmosphere is causing the planet to heat up. Peat bogs act like a sponge, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it like a sink.
The UK’s peatlands store around 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon and alongside the oceans, are the second largest store of carbon on the planet whilst covering a much smaller area.