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Alan Titchmarsh digs in over peat use

Conservationists say they are “stunned” after TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh admitted to using weedkiller and peat.

Alan still uses peat

The former Gardeners’ World presenter, who claims to have resisted chemical pesticides for 10 years, confessed he’d “occasionally” used Roundup weedkiller as “his back is not as well oiled as it was for double digging”.

To the dismay of green groups, Alan, who is regarded as largely organic, said he “sometimes” used peat-based composts.

Critics claim 94 per cent of the UK’s peatland, a wildlife habitat and carbon sink, has been lost.

They say peat use by gardeners leads to 630,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

“We are stunned by Alan’s latest, deliberately provocative comments on gardening,” said chief horticultural officer at Garden Organic, Bob Sherman.

“He seems out-of-step with the trend for wildlife gardening and food-growing. We’re concerned that, as a role model, Alan ought to be careful about what he advocates.”

Writing in a magazine column, Alan said gardeners were “getting it in the neck again” from conservation groups for using peat.

The ITV chat show host said he “sometimes” used peat in compost – but never in its pure form. He said peat alternatives like coir had “used up too many air miles to salve his conscience”.

Alan’s comments ruffled feathers at the RSPB which has lobbied for a £1-per-bag tax on peat-based compost.

Peat extraction is controversial

RSPB peat expert Olly Watts said: “Alan may feel under attack from conservation groups but the phasing out of peat is a Government aim.”

Olly added: “Our use of garden peat is unsustainable. It’s a cause of carbon emissions and destroys fragile habitats. There are effective alternatives.”

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council criticised Alan, too.

Conservation officer Tadhg O Corcora said: “The IPCC cannot support even minimal use of peat in our gardens, as detailed in Alan’s article.

“He says he is not squandering natural resources. In terms of his own consumption this may be true but when a personality like Alan makes such comments, he is encouraging millions of UK gardeners to do the same. Cumulatively, the effect on our peatlands is enormous.”

Friends of the Earth joined the chorus of disapproval.

Director of policy Craig Bennett said: “If we go back 20 years, Geoff Hamilton [the late Gardeners’ World presenter] said there was no excuse to use peat. Ten years ago, Alan said he didn’t use peat. Now, Monty Don does not use peat.

Angry: Garden Organic's Bob Sherman

“People hold Alan with a lot of respect, but he’s sending out the wrong signal to gardeners. Alan should chat to the National Trust to see how they garden without peat.

“Or he should take a trip to see peat bogs – the world’s finest wildlife habitats – and see for himself how they have been trashed,” Craig added.

The Government plans to force amateur gardeners to go peat-free by 2020.

Alan Titchmarsh was unavailable for comment as AG went to press.

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One Comment

  • Taylor says:
    11:39 PM on 29th April 2011

    Shame on you, Mr Titchmarsh. Broadcasting to millions comes with responsibilities. Sadly, you have grown too big for your gardening boots. Of all the people who could afford to offer employment to a young gardener to obviate the need to use chemical weedkiller, you are he, in no small measure thanks to license fee payers’ cash. As for using peat, you seem to be quite out of touch with the zeitgeist. Time to retire and hand over to someone humbler, more aware, and who cares more about our fragile eco systems. Pity!

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