Why our peat bogs are so important and why you should go peat-free
We are now nearing the end of ‘Peat Free April.’ But we are hoping that everyone now sees how easy it is to be peat free and continues on!
Happily, Peat sales to gardeners in England and Wales will finally be banned by 2024. So making the switch now just makes sense.
WHAT IS PEAT?
Peat is a rich soil made mostly of decomposed moss. It is high in carbon and water-retentive.
Peat is created very slowly, in very acidic, nutrient deficient conditions. Your average 100 litre bag of peat compost takes around 100 years to develop, as plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and turn it into leaves, stems and roots, which are eventually laid down as peat. A bag this size will have absorbed as much carbon dioxide over the 100 years it took to form as you would emit driving 236 miles in a petrol VW Golf; that’s equivalent to driving from Birmingham to London and back, twice. Every month gardeners in the UK use enough peat to fill 69 Olympic swimming pools.
The problem for peat is that it comes out of the ground very easily and requires very little in the way of processing. It is very easy to bag up and sell. To make matters worse, peat extraction isn’t the only thing threatening peat bogs. Many lowland peat bogs in the UK have been drained to produce fertile lands for arable farming. Upland peat bogs such as those on Dartmoor have had drainage ditches dug into them so that they are suitable for rearing livestock.
WHY IS PEAT IMPORTANT?
Peatlands are an incredibly unique and diverse habitat, playing home to many specialist species that cannot exist elsewhere. It is also a powerful water filter and a huge carbon sink.
To date we have lost 94% of our lowland raised peat bogs in the UK and there are just 6000 hectares left in good condition. Although most of the peat we consume in the UK now comes from abroad (principally Ireland), we are still extracting peat from the few sites we have left.