...to Peat-Free Compost.

Peatlands are crucial for the health of our planet. They store carbon, mitigate climate change and preserve biodiversity. It is imperative to protect our peatlands to ensure a sustainable future. Peat-free composts have become readily accessible, offering an excellent option for both your plants and the environment. In this guide, we explore the selection of suitable peat-free composts to meet all your gardening requirements.

‘Environmentally friendly’ and ‘organic’ composts aren’t necessarily peat-free

Primary Components of Peat-Free Compost

Peat-free potting composts consist of combinations of diverse organic (plant-derived) materials, including composted bark, coir, wood fiber, and green compost, occasionally blended with inorganic materials like grit, sharp sand, rock wool, and perlite. Each of these materials possesses unique physical, chemical, and biological properties distinct from those of peat. Therefore, experimenting with various compost mixes is advisable to find the most suitable one for your garden and the specific plants you cultivate.

Some of the commonly utilized organic ingredients include:

  • Wood Fibers: Treated wood chips with different treatments yielding various materials to cater to different needs. Steam treatment produces a very loose material, while crushed or milled wood fibers can enhance drainage. Depending on their treatment, wood-based mixes can be customized to meet the requirements of most plants.

  • Coir or Coconut Fiber: Derived from the husks of coconuts that would otherwise be waste, mainly imported from Sri Lanka and India. Coir possesses excellent water-holding capabilities, and its combination of fine and coarse fibers makes it lightweight and porous, creating favorable growing conditions. However, it doesn't retain nutrients as effectively as some other materials.

  • Wood Bark: Often sourced from pine trees, this component can also be treated in various ways to impart different properties suitable for different purposes. Bark is highly stable and porous, thus contributing to improved aeration within a compost.

  • Green Compost: Many local authorities and private companies collect and anaerobically compost green waste. The resulting compost typically boasts a high nutrient content but might exhibit considerable variability throughout the year without meticulous management. There exists an industry standard for green compost to ensure a high quality and consistent product. The RHS is part of Enrich the Earth, a coalition of organizations aiming to unlock the benefits of green waste. They are conducting trials involving localized composted green waste and food waste as a substitute for peat.

You can even mix your own peat-free potting compost using home composted food and inorganic materials like loam and sand.