Specialist nurseries say a ban on peat could put them out of business – and wreck efforts to conserve plants that are now extinct in their natural habitats.
The UK government wants to ban peat use by amateur gardeners by 2020 and halt its use at nurseries by 2030.
However, other EU countries do not intend to phase out peat. And Dutch peat firms are reported to be gearing up to flood the UK market with imported plants, if UK nurseries shut up shop.
“Some of the plants we exhibit are now extinct in the wild, but we need peat to grow them,” said Matthew Soper, of Hampshire Carnivorous Plants in Southampton.
“If a peat ban comes in we’ll have to stop. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’ve heard people say there’s no place for peat but that’s a load of rubbish.
“Of course, peat shouldn’t be used as a soil improver, but certain species need it.
“We have trialled the alternatives but had disappointing results – they just don’t work. English growers will be put at a disadvantage to the Dutch,” Matthew warned.
Dave Parkinson, co-owner of east Yorkshire-based disa orchid specialist Dave Parkinson Plants, agreed.
“We have two choices: peat or sphagnum moss,” Dave said.
“If we had to use sphagnum moss, our 40-50,000 plants would need re-potting once or twice a year, as the moss starts to break down.
“I just wouldn’t do it. We’d shut. If we lose peat, I’m finished. We’ve looked at alternatives for 20 years and there’s nothing in the same league as peat.”
Dave said that disa orchids grown in peat alternatives “stop growing and die” and claimed that compost containing recycled green waste is too high in nutrients.
“It kills them [disa orchids] within a week,” he said.
Dave, who uses 60 per cent coarse grade peat in his compost mix, summed up: “It’s ridiculous. There’s got to be a place for peat for plants that need it. I stopped hybridizing two years ago.
“I don’t see the point if I can’t get the stuff to grow them in.
“I used to do 100 crosses a year but now I can’t see any future.
“We are the only country in the world that’s talking about banning peat. All the rest are discussing extracting it from sustainable sources.”