In the UK, peat harvesting takes place on an industrial scale and it is a total disaster so says Catherine O’Connell, the chief executive of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council. John Craven of the BBC Countryfile programme has said that the UK risked losing the country’s “version of the rainforest”.
Monty Don, the well-known gardening presenter has demanded that garden centres stop selling peat as a potting compost. He said that garden centres must take responsibility their actions. Writing in his column in Gardeners’ World magazine on the subject of climate change and deforestation he said that if you are unconcerned about peat harvesting you are sticking your head in the sand. He said ignoring the damaging effect of peat harvesting on biodiversity will affect the quality of life of your children and grandchildren.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants peat to be phased out as a gardening product by 2020. Campaigners against peat harvesting say that it causes a loss of biodiversity and rising carbon dioxide emissions.
Monty Don is adamant that the buck stops at garden centres and that they must do something about it. It’s time to stop selling peat as a commercial product because it damages the environment too much. In damaging the environment we damage ourselves and nature and the animals that live within nature.
Peat is the accumulation of partially decayed vegetation organic matter. It is found in peatlands, bogs, moors and mires. Organic matter decomposes in the wet acidic conditions. It is cut out and dried in blocks as you can see in the photograph. Intensively farming it has a negative impact on the climate. It destroys valuable ecosystems. Many rare and endangered species live in and around peat bogs. Peat is a form of soil classified as histosols. They are high in organic matter content.
Peatlands store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. There has been concern over the use of peat for 25 years. It’s a question of reading the label on garden products to make sure that it does not contain peat. You can buy peat-free compost’s made from wood fibre, coir and compost and bark.
We have an update and it’s a good one. The UK government are considering fines for garden centres who sell peat-based compost under a wider plan to conserve wildlife. This is because shops missed a 2020 deadline to do this voluntarily. We will know more about it next year when the government publish their plans. Using peat in compost releases 400,000 tons of carbon annually in the UK and peat bogs have been described as Britain’s rainforest.
I’ve written about Monty Don’s campaign and how he has been criticised by the garden centres. No doubt he will be delighted at this news. Peat bogs store an estimated 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon in the UK. The people who sell peat-based compost argue that if you ban it garden centres will run out of compost as peat accounted for almost half of all compost sales in the UK last year. Dobbies, a garden centre with 69 outlets said that they would delist most of their bagged Pete compost.
The government has to do this because they have committed as they must to tackling climate change and the only way to do it is to take bold steps to wrench the citizens of the country out of their carbon producing habits.