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Marc’s blog: for peat’s sake!

I like to think I am a reasonably environmentally-friendly chap, writes AG news editor Marc Rosenberg.

I grow quite a lot of veg, herbs and salads, use hardly any chemicals in the garden, recycle around 80 per cent of my household rubbish and so on.

Miracle Gro Expand 'n Gro Compost

But apparently, despite all my efforts to ‘go green,’ I am considered by some to be an eco-vandal. My crime? Well, I’ve always refused to go peat-free, despite mounting pressure from environmental campaigners.

Early peat-free composts were, to be frank, rubbish. Plants lacked vigour and crops were pathetic. Bulky to carry, they retained water like a sponge and as a result, seedlings keeled over from damping off. But gardeners were still pressurised into ditching peat to prevent its extraction from wildlife habitats.

A decade on, the story couldn’t be more different. I’ve just been to the Garden Leisure Exhibition (GLEE), a trade show at Birmingham’s NEC, to see the latest innovations in peat-free growing media.

Miracle Gro’s new Expand ‘n Gro compost (pictured, right) is leading the way when it comes to going peat-free. It’s a coir media that expands to make 56-litres of compost when water is added.

Unlike so many bulky peat-free mixes, it’s crumbly, almost peat-like texture looks perfect for seed-sowing and plant-raising and I will definitely be giving it a go in 2012. The only snag is the price: bags may be lightweight but the price is not. At £9.99, it’s a budget-buster.

Compost giant Westland will soon launch its Light & Easy peat-free brand (lower picture). It’s said to be 60 per cent lighter that traditional peat-based growing media.

West + Light & Easy compost

Although Westland didn’t have the compost for journalists to play with, a lighter compost will be much easier to carry to the car, or around the garden, so it’s step in the right direction – especially as Westland says it performs as well as peat. It costs £3.99 for 20 litres.

And finally, if you’re looking to go peat-free in 2012, try the new RSPB Multi-Purpose Compost. The RSPB has been at the forefront of the anti-peat campaign and now it’s teamed up with compost maker Vital Earth to bring out this new blend, made from sanitised recycled garden waste. It’s priced at £5.99 for a 50-litre bag.

Do let AG know how you’re getting on with new-generation peat-free composts. Leave your comments below (they may take up to 24 hours to go live on the website) or write to AG’s letters pages

Related Articles:

  1. 30 Oct 2010: Campaigners’ anger at peat comeback

    Peat-based composts are set to make a big comeback, in a move branded “irresponsible” and “shocking” by campaigners.
    Suppliers are gearing up to launch a host of peat-based brands after Government targets for the UK to be 90 per cent peat-free by 2010 fell by the wayside.
    Westland will introduce a multi-purpose compost called Jack’s Magic. It contains 90 per cent peat.…

  2. Green groups call for peat compost tax

    Green groups have urged the Government to slap a £1-per bag tax on peat-based compost in the Budget on 23 March.
    Wildlife and conservation groups say peat bogs dug up for compost are responsible for 630,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.
    The RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Buglife and Vital Earth are calling on chancellor…

  3. Celebrity gardeners stoke peat debate

    WELL OVER half of the UK’s most influential celebrity gardeners have failed to stop using peat in their own gardens, a shock survey revealed last week.
    The poll, for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, follows ‘green’ gardener Alan Titchmarsh’s admission that he still relies on peat (AG, 30 April).
    RSPB researchers quizzed 27 star gardeners including Bob Flowerdew (GQT),…

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