Gardeners need a voice on peat

Last week's information conference on the future of growing composts for gardeners at Stockbridge Technology Centre was designed to shed some much needed light on a subject that suffers from a lack of good-quality information.

Delegates heard from expert staff at the centre involved in commercial trials - as well as suppliers - about the very significant steps forward that have been taken by those working on alternatives to peat.

The conference also heard about the remaining problems such as the confusing array of products being offered to consumers, lack of consistency in performance, the need for much more and much better quality advice on using different products - and, above all, the need for a universal standard to help guide garden centre customers in their purchases.

Calling for such a standard, plantswoman Christine Walkden powerfully summed up the confusion and lack of transparency in the debate about peat and peat alternatives and warned that the road ahead was going to be rocky.

But the strongest message of all came from the highly-engaged delegates to the conference - all amateur gardeners linked to a wide array of clubs and societies.That message was that amateur gardeners have been denied any voice in the debate over the future of peat use in England.

Indeed, that the conference took place at all was down to requests from members of gardening societies concerned about the impact of the Government's attempts to phase out peat completely. One delegate asked how amateur gardeners could get their view across to Defra's sustainable growing media task force when they were not represented. Would Defra care to answer?

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