Horticultural Society members worried over peat move

Inconsistency of some peat-reduced and peat-free growing media could discourage gardeners, conference delegates told.

Lack of consistency in peat alternatives is seen as a problem for horticultural society members - image: HW
Lack of consistency in peat alternatives is seen as a problem for horticultural society members - image: HW

Horticultural society members say they are concerned that amateur growing activity could diminish if peat is not widely available.

Representatives from amateur grower societies speaking at a conference organised by the Stockbridge Technology Centre and the International Peat Society last week said the inconsistency of some peat-reduced and peat-free growing media could discourage gardeners.

"If the Government phases out peat without alternatives available, it is likely we will see a reduction in vegetable-growing activity," said north Yorkshire and Durham National Vegetable Society chairman Adrian Reed.

"Since the introduction of waste material into products, activity has gone down, and this may be because they don't work for the amateur."

He added that people needed to look at how reliable and how good alternatives were. "We are often let down by the labelling. We need to know what we are buying and what the ingredients are."

British Chrysanthemum Society vice-chairman Roger Brownbridge said: "Peat is a consistent medium and produces predictable results. Allied to sterilised loam and horticultural grit, it produces consistent quality."

He added that peat was used as a rooting medium and lack of consistency in alternative growing media meant that cutting material could be lost in the rooting procedure.

Richard Benton of the British Streptocarpus Society said only 100 per cent peat growing media were used for the plants. "Other people have trialled other media but nothing else seems to work."

Industry reaction to amateur societies' concerns over gardeners' use of peat alternatives

Steve Bradley, gardening correspondent, the Sun

"When I started out in horticulture, peat was just starting, and I've seen some of this before. However, it was a natural evolution from John Innes compost to peat, while this (proposed change to peat-free) is forced."

He added that a chrysanthemum grower losing a year through using the wrong growing media at the propagation stage was a serious issue. "I know it's only a hobby, but this is a tragedy for them," he said.

Bob Sherman, horticulture director, Garden Organic

"This is quite a conservative view. A lot of gardeners don't like using peat. There are issues with peat-free products and you have to get used to them.

"Some gardeners are fixed in their way of doing things. They have something they always use and are upset when it's not there. But there is a huge swathe of people who just do a bit of gardening and buy on price. At the moment, peat-free is much more expensive so that is the crunch point."

Dr Roger Williams, Head of Science, RHS

"Thanks to the efforts of RHS curatorial staff and scientists over recent years, our own gardens are now 97 per cent peat free, but there is significant need for further investment and research into viable peat alternatives and recognition of technical problems that commercial growers face.

"Encouragingly though, a recent nationwide survey by the RHS showed that 88 per cent of gardeners who had tried peat-free composts said they would use them again, showing that some people are achieving satisfactory results with existing retail bagged growing media."


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