Ministry Of Controversy

UK gardeners: No peat for you!

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Peat bog in Scotland (Shutterstock)

“If you love your garden, you really can’t just abstain.”

That’s what the delightfully named Brit celeb gardener Bob Flowerdew says about a life without peat moss. As reported in the New York Times yesterday, the public, private, and industrial use of peat in Great Britain could completely disappear by 2030. The government is acting according to the advice of a task force of experts, who—along with environmentalists worldwide—feel that peat bogs are too important as habitat and carbon storage to be emptied out for the sake of potting media and soil additives. The task force issued a long and—occasionally—strangely worded report that could probably be boiled down to this 4-word excerpt: Sustainability is not easy.

And I’d have to agree. But not because of any need for peat moss, at least as far as my gardening requirements are concerned. I, like most home gardeners, can get along without peat moss just fine. The larger horticulture industry is another matter, as the task force admits. It proposes a lengthy step-by-step phase-out (this is the one with the 2030 target) that includes funding the research and development of sustainable growing media.

What I like about all this is how seriously the Brits are treating the issue. The task force included every possible element of the hort industry (not just wild-eyed environmentalists). There were nurseries, flower growers, food growers, and—of course—growing media producers, such as our friends at Scotts Miracle-Gro, and others.

Despite all the careful deliberation, and despite the 29-page report, however, the British reaction was tumultuous enough to warrant a front-page news story over here. Is there really no other media capable of nurturing seeds and hard-to-grow plants? Hard to believe.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on October 8, 2012 at 7:50 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.


  1. I used to work at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London a good 15 years ago, in both the alpine and tropical nurseries. They had already moved from peat based products into Coir media. Though there were some problems for some of the collections, they were easily overcome. The Royal Horticultural Society has done extensive testing on peat alternatives, too. It’s funny to read that it made front page news as many UK institutions moved away from peat all those years ago. However, I guess here in the states, the peat industry has too much of a lobbying hold on our politicians to let this happen.

  2. Every kind of Big Business Lobbying interest has a hold of politicians over there. Look at the GMO industry and the ideologically driven bad science that has resulted in undisciplined move to push them despite not knowing totally the consequences of such dangerous gene pollution technology.

  3. I hope this helps give Coir the boost that it needs to become more readily available and affordable. I’d use it all the time if I could get it without spending 5x what peat costs!

  4. Fact remains that Canadian peat bogs replenish themselves far faster than anything harvesting removes. That being said peat has past it’s time as a growing medium. In the Southeast United States bark is the min substrate instead of peat. I love coir. The portability is so much easier.

  5. The sales of peat in our stores is next to nil………………..except for potting mixes which are gradually switching to coir or compost based. So your point is moot. Our customers are getting to the point of hating peat and have been for a long time.

  6. Its great that peat is being phased out in the UK. Can’t help thinking that it might be a good idea to try and persuade the Irish government to close their three peat fired power stations, I would have thought horticultural use pales into insignificance compared to burning it for electricity 24/7.

  7. I still use mostly peat-based mixes for my containers – frankly, it’s difficult to find stuff that isn’t mostly made of peat. I’d be happy to buy alternatives, though.

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