Better for the Environment. Just as good for your garden.
Peat is a mixture of decomposed organic waste that is found in wetlands including bogs, swamps, and marshes. Peat forms very slowly, with current stores having accumulated over thousands of years, and is the first stage in the formation of coal. Peatlands support a diverse ecosystem of wildlife including plants, birds, and insects like butterflies and dragonflies. Mining peat destroys these habitats, and as peat regenerates so slowly, peat bogs and marshes can take many of our lifetimes to return to the way they were.
Peat is used throughout the world mainly as a fuel, but is also widely used in agriculture and gardening as a soil amendment, helping to improve the nutrient and moisture retention of soil. As technology has improved it has been possible to develop additives and readymade composts that do not contain peat, and still work as well or almost as well as products which do. Many experienced gardeners will tell you that once you are used to using peat free compost, it will be as though you never used anything else. You’ll also have the satisfaction of not being responsible for damage to other natural environments simply to sustain your own.
Steve Berry, Wildlife Gardening Officer, Natural England. "Having destroyed most of our own peatbogs we're now helping to destroy those in places like Latvia and Estonia. Most gardeners live a long way from peat bogs and may not see the appeal or the value of them but every time someone uses peat they're contributing to the destruction of this special and important habitat. There are plenty of non-peat alternatives that work almost as well as peat-based products. The more people that use and ask for non-peat ones, the greater the commercial incentive to improve them further."
Peat free compost is made from sustainable organic materials including composted green waste, bark, and wood, and often contains added nutrients. Though it still has a certain stigma attached to it, many modern brands of peat free compost can actually outperform peat composts.
Some plants are unsuitable for growing in peat free compost, including acid-loving and lime-hating plants like heathers, rhododendrons, and camellias. Peat free compost will generally produce a hardier plant with the usual yields of fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Young plants and seedlings may take slightly longer to grow but will soon catch up. Be sure to follow instructions given on your peat free compost while you get used to using it.