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Why going peat-free is essential for the planet

As a plant-lover and gardener, you can help the environment and protect wetlands whenever you choose peat-free compost. Find out why in this blog post.

As more people find out what peatlands are and how important they are for our natural environment, more gardeners are choosing to buy compost and other products free of peat.

What is peat?

Peat is formed when wetland vegetation partially decomposes in peatlands, more commonly referred to as bogs or fens. These unique landscapes cover around 10% of the UK land area (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2021), and they are vital in the fight surrounding climate change.

According to the National Trust, peatlands hold twice as much carbon in the ground as the world’s forests worldwide. They are vital habitats for wildlife, but the extraction of peat for horticultural use and gardening, among other uses, means that the carbon stored in peatlands is released into the environment, which equates to more than 5% of all global carbon emissions, according to the IUCN.

Muddy Trowel packaging behind a pile of dark brown peat-free compost

Why use peat-free compost?

The UK government has mandated a ban on peat-based compost sold in garden centres by 2024.

A significant proportion of the peat found in compost in the UK is sourced from elsewhere in Europe, so going peat-free helps protect our own landscapes and benefits important ecosystems throughout the continent. Blanket bogs (a primary source of peat) are rare worldwide, but the UK holds approximately 13% of all worldwide blanket bogs, so we have a responsibility to lead the way.

This is a great step for the industry, but its effectiveness will also depend on the outcome of a further consultation on whether to also ban plants grown in peat abroad e.g., in the Netherlands. The UK imports many plants from the Netherlands and more widely in Europe, and it’s crucial that these are also grown in peat-free compost.

What is peat-free compost?

According to the RHS, peat-free compost is made using a mix of coarse and fine particles. These create a balanced compost that contains enough water and air, which are essential for root growth.

Photograph of a potted plant

What’s in it?

Peat-free compost is made using a mix of fine and coarse particles, usually composed of:

  • Composted bark
  • Coir (coconut fibre)
  • Woodfibre
  • Green compost (e.g. grass clippings, composted food waste)
  • Added coarse materials such as grit, sharp sand and rock wool

Is peat-free compost better?

Yes, and at Muddy Trowel, we are committed to selling peat-free compost and have done since we launched in 2020. Our range of peat-free compost, includes MiracleGro’s all-purpose, organic and ericaceous (suitable for heathers and other lime-hating plants) ranges.

Peat-free compost is widely available in the UK. Switching to peat-free is one of the single-best ways in gardening to be less damaging to the environment. What are you waiting for? The more of us that make this switch, the more the industry’s big players will pay attention.

Buy peat-free compost.

A potted plant next to some peat-free compost in a bag