The UK’s leading gardening charity has pledged to go peat-free by 2025, and is urging green-fingered householders to ditch peat from their gardens too.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has committed to phase out its remaining use of peat by mid-decade, and is trialling sustainable alternatives including farmed sphagnum moss to reach the goal.
Healthy peatlands trap in carbon, helping to reduce emissions and tackle climate change, and provide habitat for plants and animals, but lose these functions if the peat is damaged, such as being dug up and removed for sale.
The RHS said its gardens are already 98% free of peat, with the exception of use on some rare and exotic plants, and it stopped selling peat-based bags of compost in 2019.
All plants it sells at its shops and on display at its shows will be peat-free by 2025, the charity said.
Government support will be crucial in helping to protect this precious resource and ensure our plots are truly greenAlistair Griffiths, RHS
The Government set voluntary goals to end sales of peat compost for amateur gardens by 2020 and for a phase-out of its use in commercial horticulture by 2030, as part of efforts to curb carbon emissions.
But the target for amateur gardeners was missed, and there has been slow progress on reducing peat use in the professional growing sector, prompting calls from environmentalists for a ban on peat in compost by 2025.
The RHS is calling for greater Government support to help the industry replace around two million cubic metres of peat a year with sustainable alternatives, including incentives and investment in research and development.
The charity will be trialling alternatives including farmed sphagnum moss, organic material from anaerobic digestion, wood by-products, and waste materials over the next few years to achieve its pledged peat-free status.
It is calling on gardeners to halt their use of peat by buying peat-free bagged compost and using compost bins in their own gardens to create home-grown soil improvers or putting garden waste in council bins for wider use.
Gardeners can also share advice, tips and successes on going peat-free with friends and family to help spread the message, the society said.
The Government is fully committed to transitioning away from the use of peatRebecca Pow, Environment Minister
The RHS said it is surveying its 521,000 members to better understand their awareness of the need to move away from peat and the barriers they see, and has put new information on its website to help.
Alistair Griffiths, director of science and collections at the RHS, said the UK’s gardeners are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their gardens and are seeking out alternatives including peat-free products.
“However, the challenge for industry in finding a replacement for the two million cubic metres of peat used should not be underestimated and is why Government support will be crucial in helping to protect this precious resource and ensure our plots are truly green,” he said.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow welcomed the move and the trial of innovative alternatives.
“The Government is fully committed to transitioning away from the use of peat and we will be setting out plans to end the use of horticultural peat imminently, as part of a package of measures to restore, protect and manage England’s peatlands,” she said.
Growing sphagnum for uses such as horticultural compost could help protect and restore peat in lowland areas where it has been drained for agriculture.
One trial is taking place as part of moves by Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire (BCN) Wildlife Trust to develop “wet farming” to protect peat and create sustainable agriculture in East Anglia’s Fens.
For more information about peat, visit www.rhs.org.uk/peat