Let's talk about peat

Head of Social Enterprise at Mayfield, Dan Angus, explains why he's so passionate about going peat free....

"One of my earliest memories of gardening is being told by my Dad to get a bag of peat from the shed. We have peat throughout our gardens, pots, baskets and raised beds. Why? It's an almost perfect medium for growing. It leads to healthy, thriving plants. It is used in almost all our composts and grow bags.

But peat use in the garden has a darker side. For years now, the horticultural industry has been looking for a viable alternative to peat, having set a target for eliminating peat products by 2020. The industry accepts it is a fair way behind that target. From the day I came to Mayfield, in August 2019, it has been my mission to reduce our peat use and my vision to eliminate it completely.

This is because, peat is one of our greatest resources in tackling climate change – as long as it is left in bogs where it belongs! It really is wonderful stuff. Dig a peat bog just a few feet and you’ll find yourself holding plant matter that pre-dates the Pyramids. Go a few feet deeper, and you are handling vegetation that is many thousands of years old. And it has been trapping Carbon all that time. Simply put, if we dig it up, we release that Carbon. If we leave it alone, it absorbs Carbon from our atmosphere. And not just a little bit – around 3% of the world’s surface is made up of peat bogs and they absorb more Carbon than all the world’s standing forests put together. I haven’t even mentioned the eco systems supported by peat bogs and the endangered species of insects and plants they are home to.

So what’s the alternative? Well, it’s not all the fault of we gardeners – the demise of peat bogs is largely down to their drainage and subsequent use for agriculture. But we can do our bit to keep this most precious resource safe. Sustainably sourced bark and wood, mixed with coir is the favoured approach. This allows for our plants to benefit from slow release nutrients whilst maintaining the air pockets and water retention they need to thrive.

I’m really excited that we have been able to source an incredible, peat free range of composts for this season, which we will be exclusively selling – and using ourselves! These have been approved by the RHS and already have a proven track record in performance. Plus, they are only a fraction more expensive than last season’s peat based composts! Mayfield may not be peat free yet – we’ll need to work with our suppliers before that can happen – but we’ve come a really long way in a very short time. Pop along for a chat with our team and join the peat free revolution!

Happy gardening, whether you have acres to tend or a few pots on a balcony. I look forward to seeing you at Mayfield over the coming months."

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