Peat is widely used in potting composts of all kinds and also by commercial nurseries etc that grow and sell plants in pots. But peat is a resource that renews itself very slowly and peat bogs store and sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide. Extracting peat releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere hence contributing to the climate emergency. It will not be possible to buy peat-based composts from garden centres etc after 2023 so all gardeners need to consider alternative sources of potting compost.
There are already many peat-free composts available to buy with new products jostling for a slice of this expanding market. But the quality is variable. Moreover, many of the products provide little or no information about the constituent parts of their compost on the bags. There is a Gardening Which report on the quality of some but not all the peat-free composts that are available locally.
Many of the commercial peat-free composts contain coir (from coconuts) which has to be imported, mostly from Sri Lanka and India. This may bring benefits to those countries but has drawbacks in terms of the energy used to extract the coir pith and transport it to this country.
Another issue to consider is that many of the peat-free composts contain artificial fertilizers although this is rarely made explicit. Some state that they contain “added John Innes”. This doesn’t make much sense as John Innes composts are loam-based with additional ingredients depending on whether they are John Innes 1, 2 and 3.
Some peat-free composts (e.g. Happy Compost) are not available locally, others (e.g. Bathgate) are only available by ordering in bulk online.
The Bisley Community Composting Scheme has peat-free soil conditioner which can be obtained from the site on Saturday mornings (£0.08/L) and which can be used as potting compost.
Click on the link below to see a table of which brands of peat-free compost are available locally and local prices (August 2021)