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Potting up with peat-free compostThe Royal Horticultural Society shares public concern in reducing peat use to minimise the effects of global peat extraction on peat bog habitats. The RHS believes that the commercial extraction of peat at current rates is environmentally unsustainable as it removes peat at a much faster rate than it accumulates leading to the irreversible destruction of peatlands.

Many viable peat alternatives exist which are either completely peat-free or of reduced peat content. With improved labelling and information on packaging, gardeners will be able to make more informed decisions about peat alternatives.

The RHS has exceeded Defra’s target of a 90% reduction in peat used in growing media and soil conditioners by 2010. Peat accounts for less than 0.7% of all our growing media and soil conditioner use.

A summary of RHS policy

  1. The RHS shares public concern about the effects of global peat extraction on wildlife habitats and fully endorses the need for strong protection of peat bog habitats.

  2. The RHS promotes the use of sustainable peat alternatives by gardeners and has exceeded Defra’s target of a 90% reduction in peat used in growing media and soil conditioners by 2010. Peat accounts for less than 0.7% of all our growing media and soil conditioner use. As the RHS never uses peat as a soil conditioner, our focus is on further reductions in our use of peat-based growing media for propagation of plants and maintenance of a small number of our specialist plant collections. In 2010, peat accounted for around 3% of our growing media use.

  3. The RHS will support progress towards the Defra target of a total withdrawal of peat use by amateur gardeners by 2020.

  4. The RHS supports and encourages studies into the use of peat alternatives, believing that while viable alternatives are currently available for the majority of growing media uses, there is a need for further research and development into sustainable peat replacements.

  5. The RHS gives guidance on the use of alternative growing media products instead of peat where results are comparable.

  6. The RHS considers the purchase of peat to be unacceptable for the primary use of soil incorporation and ground mulching; the RHS does not use peat as a soil improver or mulch in its gardens. At its flower shows it bans the use of peat for staging.

  7. The RHS would like all retail outlets that stock peat for horticultural purposes to offer gardeners the choice of peat-free alternatives from sustainable sources. Plant Centres run by RHS Enterprises stock alternative, peat-free products that are clearly identifiable and at a competitive price. Using RHS Plantfinder you can search for plants propagated in peat-free (under 'speciality') but it may not apply to the entire plant range offered by the nursery.

  8. The RHS would like clearer labelling of growing media, their composition and instructions for use, enabling gardeners to make an informed choice. The RHS is a key sponsor of the Growing Media Initiative which brings retailers, manufacturers, government, NGOs, growers and conservationists together to find ways to actively encourage peat-reduction practices, including clearer labelling.

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