Gardening is on the rise – but so is knowledge and interest in the environmental cost of peat harvesting and its alternatives
One of the happier outcomes of the pandemic has been a shift in the numbers of people gardening. Research by industry body the Horticultural Trades Association shows up to three million more people are actively gardening than in pre-pandemic times. What’s more, a new and younger face of gardening has been identified with nearly half (49%) of the new gardeners being aged under 45.
At Melcourt, we have certainly seen the effects of this pandemic pastime with sales that are higher than ever before. But sales are also being driven by the ever-increasing awareness among gardeners about the need to avoid using peat.
Gardeners are going peat free
Knowledge of the damage that peat harvesting causes has been well known to conservationists for some 40 or more years. And it’s hard to believe that the first government target for peat reduction was created as far back as 1995.
But it is only in relatively recent times that a larger number of gardeners are become acquainted with the issue. The level of interest in our peat-free SylvaGrow products certainly suggests a large body of gardeners now know they should avoid peat.
Peat use in the gardening industry
But changes are afoot at a higher level too. In May this year, the UK government highlighted its intention to ban peat use by gardeners by the end of this parliament in 2024. This is barely three seasons away. The ban is subject to a consultation, which is yet to start, but we feel the writing is on the wall for peat in this country. The government has also restated its intention that plant nurseries will have to stop using peat by 2030.
But there are concerns within the industry that the quantities of alternatives to peat are simply not there. After all, the UK horticulture industry used 2.3 million m3 of peat in 2020. This is a large quantity to replace should the ban come to fruition.
We predict that the growing media industry will rise to the challenge. We believe there will be more innovation in the next few years – and much more so than we have seen over the last three decades.
Making more informed compost choices
The Responsible Sourcing of Growing Media Scheme is one project, which seeks to throw far more light on the ingredients in compost and their environmental impacts. The scheme is backed by government and has been created by a cross industry group of interested parties from all sides of the debate.
See our previous article for more details about this scheme and how it can help you to make an informed choice.
Peat free from the beginning
We have never handled peat at Melcourt. We began our innovative journey in the early 1990s, launching our first peat-free compost for professional growers in 2001. Then in 2014, our very successful SylvaGrow range.
Over the decades we have continually invested in research and development and state-of-the-art compost-making machinery. We’ve also pulled together a great team of people who are well-placed to keep the peat-free flag flying. We are confident we can provide great SylvaGrow composts for at least some of the country’s old… and new gardeners.