NATURAL peatlands are not only important wetland habitats for rare wildlife, but they also store and filter fresh water, reduce flood risk, and are the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet.

We have lost 94% of the UK’s peat bogs, and only 20% of those remaining are in good condition.

Demand for peat means we are shifting the destruction abroad, importing our peat from Ireland, Latvia and Estonia.

In 2010, Defra introduced a voluntary target for manufacturers to phase out peat use for amateur gardeners by 2020.

But this has not been achieved, as we need to find viable alternatives to replace the 3 million cubic meters of peat used in horticulture per year.

Green waste can vary between seasons, leading to varying texture and nutrient compositions, and despite the BSI PAS 100 standard, it is still hard to ensure it contains no plastics or sharps.

Coir production from coconut husks in India would need to be scaled up, leading to concerns about the water used in processing and carbon footprint of transportation.

Wood fibres are a popular choice amongst manufacturers, and used in most peat reduced products, but wood isn’t perfect either as it can reduce the nitrogen available to plants, sometimes corrected using artificial fertilisers.

More research could be done to include biosolids or seaweed to increase volume and nutrient levels.

So, while the government is still figuring it out, are there any perfect products we can buy, right now?

Raising seeds into small plants, is the most tricky problem when it comes to peat free alternatives, but I can vouch for Dalefoot’s bracken and wool based compost being just as good as a non-organic, peat reduced alternative.

It is organic, water retentive, sustainably made in the Lake District, and contains the right supply of nutrients to grow strong, healthy plants.

Making your own compost or leaf mulch, using manure and cheap municipal compost can also help us avoid peat in our containers or as a soil improver.

Gardening can have great wildlife and carbon storing benefits, but we need to do all we can to stop using peat, to leave our planet in balance for future generations.

Transition Town Wellington