Green groups have lashed out after an influential organic gardener demanded the right to use peat.

Writing in AG, Bob Flowerdew, the BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist, made the ultimate organic taboo: he confessed to using a small amount of peat in loam-based sowing compost.

Bob argued that peat was a renewable resource and suggested: “Why not let us have a licensing regime for peat sourced from managed and sustainable sites, like FSC certification for sustainable hardwood timber?”

Environmentalists were quick to hit back. Regional campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Helen Rimmer, said: “We are disappointed that Bob has used his magazine column to promote peat when, as an organic grower, he should promote peat alternatives.

“We face an urgent climate change crisis. Peat bogs are vital carbon sinks, and home to thousands of insects and birds.

“There is little lowland bog left, so it’s vital we protect what remains. Peat-alternatives are now just as good. There’s no valid argument for using peat in the garden.”

Charity Garden Organic disagreed with Bob, too. Chief executive Myles Bremner said: “How Bob gardens is his choice, but as the UK’s leading organic organisation we don’t believe there’s any need or justification for using peat.

“Minimising peat use to virtually nothing is what we want more people to do. However, the fact remains that if every gardener took Bob’s approach, then the UK would still be using more than mere handfuls of peat, which isn’t sustainable.”

But AG editor Tim Rumball defended Bob. Tim said: “Any common sense debate about peat has become swamped by hysterical invective from environmentalists and opportunistic politicians who deliberately fail to look at the bigger picture.

“Everyday activities like driving a car, switching on a light or cooking are much more damaging than using small amounts of peat to grow plants. No gardener wants to harm the planet – growing plants is an environmentally beneficial pastime.”

The government plans to ban peat use by amateur gardeners by 2020. In spring, Alan Titchmarsh, also an organic gardener, admitted he still uses a small amount of peat.