Peatlands, from which peat is harvested, are the world’s largest carbon store and provide valuable ecosystems for wildlife as well as important hydrological services. The RHS has long been a force for change and we share public concern about the damage peat extraction does to our natural environment; we will continue to push for a fundamental reappraisal of how peat is used in horticulture.
Harnessing the expertise of RHS scientists, horticulturists and members is important to us. It ensures that we can act with precision and passion on the issues facing gardeners, growers and the environment.
RHS achievements on peat so far
Everyone at the RHS is passionate about improving our communities through gardening and plants. We know all too well how greening Britain will help us deliver improved outcomes for people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing, and how it will help us tackle climate change, safeguard wildlife and improve our environment.
Here are just some of the achievements the RHS has accomplished on peat:
Leading scientific research
We have undertaken research on growing media for more than two decades and we realised quickly that we must leave no stone unturned in achieving the goal of a peat-free future. That is why we harnessed the expertise of our scientists and horticulturists to undertake ground-breaking research
into growing media to find new ways to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of peat at the RHS and in horticulture.
The scientific evidence we funded helped us demonstrate to our partners within the ornamental horticulture sector that change is possible. We are currently working as a partner on an Horizon 2020 Organic Plus project
that is looking to develop alternative peat-free growing media. Indeed, we have worked with government to push for a clearer direction on the national peat extraction policy. That is why we fully support the UK Government’s commitment for the UK to phase out peat extraction.
Advancing peat-free advice
The RHS is one of the largest member-led charities in the UK and with that comes a great responsibility in delivering advice and support. People know us and trust us when we speak about horticulture. That is why we have highlighted to our members the RHS’s desire for defending our natural environment; advice on the use of peat is no exception to that. We have been advancing our advice on peat-free growing media and informing people about how they can create their own peat-free mixes
for those plants, such as carnivorous plants
, that have traditionally been grown in it.
Peat-free RHS Gardens
Actions speak louder than words. That is why the RHS took the decision many years ago to make all five of our RHS Gardens peat-free – except for a handful of specialist plants. Instead of just accepting that these plants must be grown in peat for evermore, the RHS is trialling peat-free products on these specialist plants to find ways of discontinuing its use forever.
Banning the sale of peat-based compost at RHS sites
Not only does the RHS want to stop the use of peat in our gardens and shows, we want our visitors to stop using it. That is why we have been selling peat-free compost for many years and from the beginning of 2020 we stopped selling peat-based compost completely when we removed the last line of peat-reduced compost.
We have been working with and will continue to work with our suppliers to replace peat-grown with peat-free plants in our gardens and we will continue to work with our suppliers to eradicate peat use in the plants we sell. As a retailer of plants, we take our environmental responsibility seriously. Therefore, by 2025 we want to, with confidence, say that the plants we sell are peat-free.
Peat-free RHS Shows
Currently exhibitors and designers do not use peat in the mulching and dressing of beds. We are now extending this and working with exhibitors to transition towards no peat use at shows by 2025.
RHS peat-free ambitions
The RHS wants to be a catalyst for change towards peat-free gardening. Working with our networks and using our experience as an exemplar, we aim to be 100% peat free in all our operations by 2025.
Amplifying the voice of our members and visitors who want to see the end of peat use is important to us. One of the ways we will achieve this is via our membership of the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group (OHRG).
The RHS was a founding member of the OHRG and it puts us in the unique position of being able to bridge the gap between gardeners, growers and government. As a charity we have the ability to collaborate and provide the evidence and advice on how we can pull together to end the use of peat.
Our charity is determined to utilise our links with other bodies. That is why we took steps to ensure that we are a member of the Growing Media Association Group. This is a key group for investigating the future relationship between horticulture and peat-based products and we will do all we can to support its evidence gathering exercises and lobbying efforts.
Not only is our charity a member of the Growing Media Association Group, we are also part of the NGO forum on peat use reduction and protection. This is because we recognise the importance of both eliminating peat extraction and peat burning.
Our charity is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Horticulture and Gardening. This gives us a direct line to members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords who share our passion for making Britain a more green and beautiful place through plants.
There is much more to be done and we are committed to supporting and helping as much as we can, where we can.