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In 2023, a pledge was made by the UK Government that made gardeners, growers and horticulturalists sit up and listen: the sale of bagged peat compost was to be banned by the end of 2024. As a historically common addition to soil and compost, this was big news.

Following on from this, the professional use of peat is to be banned by the end of 2026, and the use of peat for ‘growing plug plants, mushroom growing and other plant types or production methods where peat cannot be readily replaced’ banned by 2030.

Whilst this year heralds only the beginning of that staggered ban, we believe amateur gardeners and professionals alike should educate themselves on the role peat and its associated decimation plays in climate change, and adopt peat-free practices. The RHS is an organisation that has been doing a lot of great work with the British horticultural industry, with British nurseries helping it leading the way in peat free production.

In this article, we’ll explore what peat is, why going peat-free is important, and how we’re going peat-free here at Plants4Presents.

What is peat and why is it important?

Formed from the partial decomposition and of organic matter, peat is found in waterlogged areas, known as peatlands or peat bogs, and it’s this moisture that stops the vegetation from decaying fully. Peatlands account for 3% of the global land surface, and 12% of UK land area, and in the UK you’ll find them taking the form of blanket bogs, raised bogs, or fens.

Up until this ban, peat had been included as a staple ingredient in retail composts since the 1960s. Its ability to retain moisture and nutrients made it a useful supplement for dry and sandy soil types, with a low PH that helped plants requiring high-acidity soils to grow better.

However, in addition to being an important but fragile ecosystem full of unique animals and invertebrates, peat bogs sequester a staggering amount of carbon from the atmosphere. A single cubic metre of peat stores up to 104kg carbon. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) peat soils contain more than 600 gigatonnes of carbon which represents up to 44% of all soil carbon, and exceeds the carbon stored in all other vegetation types including the world's forests.

Preserving the remaining peatlands is therefore at least as critical as tackling deforestation and destruction of our rainforest.

As gardeners we are generally nature lovers but in taking peat from the ground for use in our gardens, we’ve been harming these essential habitats, which is why education and action is needed so urgently now.

Why are we going peat-free?

The damage that the extraction of peat can do is twofold; the removal of the peat means a loss for plants and wildlife that thrive within the peatlands, and the extraction of it releases the carbon that peatlands so cleverly store into the atmosphere. Extraction also dries out these areas, which have formed to absorb a huge amount of water, which then has to find somewhere else to go, resulting in flooding.

What are the alternatives to peat?

The good news is that these days there are lots of very good alternatives to peat, on which your garden can still thrive. These often contain ingredients such as bark, anaerobic digestate, wood fibre, coir, bracken, sustainably farmed sphagnum moss, green waste compost, and waste sheep’s wool.

Like all compost, the benefits of each of these ingredients will be felt by different plants, so we’d recommend that you do your research before your purchase, to ensure it does what you need it to. Be mindful that peat is still for sale for a little while longer, so you want bags that specifically claim ‘peat-free’ on them, not simply ‘environmentally friendly’.

Of course, there is also the option to create your very own peat-free compost from green and food waste, as well as using well-rotted animal manures to improve soil quality.

Top tips for going peat free in your garden

Buy peat free potting compost

This, of course, is the most obvious switch to make - there are many that are suited to different kinds of plants, so it’s possible to get a compost suited to the plant you’re potting up without using peat.

Put your kitchen and garden waste to work

Vegetable peelings, fruit that’s past its best, lawn clippings, and even tea bags; all these things and more can become compost by rotting down in a specially made compost bin, giving you a ready supply of compost rich in nutrients.

Buy peat-free plants

Buying any plants that are already potted comes with a risk of unwittingly showing a demand to peat products, so do you research on peat free nurseries, and buy peat free potted plants from them. You can browse and buy from our full range of peat free plants here.

Let leaves do some good

Collect up fallen leaves in your garden and let them rot down into leaf mulch, which can then be added to your garden soil to lock in moisture.

Sow hardy seeds directly into your garden soil

Cut out the need for peat by sowing the seeds of hardy plants directly into your garden soil.

How is Plants4Presents going peat-free?

We believe that as gardeners and nature lovers, we all have a responsibility to make the more sustainable choice, so going peat free is something we’re passionate about at Plants4Presents. In fact, we’ve been using our own special mix of Melcourt peat-free compost for over 8 years now. This contains a mix of bark, wood pulp and other substrates and we find it works really well for everything from seeds and cuttings to our larger citrus trees.

Our British grown orchids, houseplants and climbers are all peat free, as are most of Sicilian citrus trees. We’ll carry on championing and promoting peat free growing and will continue to favour peat free suppliers.

Find peat-free plant presents

If you’re environmentally conscious when on the hunt for the perfect gift, our peat-free plant options here at Plants4Presents tick all the boxes. They’re beautiful, they’ll provide a lasting reminder of your thoughtfulness, and every care has been taken to ensure they’ve been grown and potted as kindly to the environment as possible.

Have a questions or wish to find out more? Then simply