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. The firm’s technical chief, David Coop, told AG: “We want to ensure that gardeners get the results they expect. Many products that gardeners once trusted aren’t available. The worst thing would be if people lost trust [in compost] and stopped gardening.”

In a shock move, Vital Earth, the company that makes organic and peat-free products, has struck a deal with Bord Na Mona, the Irish growing media firm, to distribute peat-based compost. The GroWise range, which will contain up to 20 multi-purpose and specialist blends, will be labelled as ‘peat-reduced’.

Vital Earth boss Steve Harper would not confirm the level of peat content but said: “GroWise will contain a minimum of 25 per cent non-peat material.” Under the deal, GroWise will become peat-free by 2020.

Scotts Miracle-Gro is launching a Miracle-Gro Herb Planter which contains 60 per cent peat.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Paul de Zylva voiced his disapproval: “It is shocking that these companies have brought out new peat-based compost. They don’t seem to have learned the lessons of the past. Non-peat products that don’t squeeze the life out of our precious habitats are a better, greener choice.” Garden Organic’s Dr Margi Lennartsson agreed.
“The introduction of high-peat ranges is disappointing. When so many peat-free alternatives exist, and Government targets require 90 per cent of growing materials to be peat-free, these products go entirely against this target,” she said.

“Healthy peat bogs are important habitats and store carbon. Once they are dug up, the peat degrades and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Research has shown that peat-free composts can outperform their peat-based counterparts. Increasing peat products instead of developing alternatives would appear to be irresponsible.”