17 Jan 2017

Growing peat free

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

I can remember peat free compost being available back in the 1990’s and the for peat’s sake campaign in early 2000. In 2017 we don’t seem to have progressed much. I am still having the same conversations about the difficulty in accessing good quality peat free compost from retail outlets.

Why peat free

Every year, amateur gardeners use over 24 million wheelbarrows worth of peat. Peat extraction destroys peat bog habitats. Peat bog habitats support specialised but threatened wildlife. Peat bogs lock-up carbon in the peat helping to address climate change. The extraction of peat emits carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.

Organic peat free

I have always worked in organic gardens and come from a generation of peat free horticulturalists. Professionally over the years I have been using products from; Fertile fibre , Melcourt Industries Ltd  and Moorland Gold . All can be difficult and expensive to purchase at retail.

Compost products do not come under the same legislation as food. A multipurpose compost may be labelled as organic but not suitable for certified organic use because of wetting additives. If you want a certified product always look for a certification symbol such as the Soil Association.

Growing media for home

At home I am always in search of affordable quality peat free growing media commonly referred to as compost. It is never easy. I have tried;  Verve Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost , New Horizon , Westland Earth Matters Peat-free range and Vital Earth . All of varying quality.

Last year I bought cheap blocks of coir from Home Bargains and mixed it with cheap organic compost from Aldi’s. Did it do the job? Well I still have tomato ‘Red Robin’ in pots fed with homemade comfrey feed giving a steady supply tomatoes.


Coir is made from the husk of coconuts. It is transported in compressed bales and bricks. When you add water to it it expands. One kilo of dry coir will make to 15 litres of moist coir compost. The use of coir in the horticulture industry has increased vastly over the last decade. The supply is largely from India and Sri Lanka. It is considered better for the environment as it is a renewable resource and easy to transport.

Mix and match

I don’t think there is such a  thing as multipurpose compost. They are good for a base but I seldom use it purely on its own. I sieve it for sowing seeds. For fine seeds I prefer to use the coir. For potting on I mix coir with the multipurpose compost and I may add sharp sand depending on the plant. For pots and contains I also add soil from mole hills. Moles are great at proving mounds of crumbly soil just when you need it in spring.

At the Garden

At the Garden we use peat free compost using different mixes from Melcourt Industries. We know how difficult it is for consumers to access good quality peat free compost so we are now selling it at Y Pot Blodyn our garden centre.

We can all make a difference in the choices we make. Don’t dig peat, choose peat free.

Happy gardening!