Peat-free advice for gardeners

Peatlands are wet, boggy habitats that are hugely important as a carbon store, reduce flood risk, and are home to diverse wildlife. Peatlands store over twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined, so keeping peat in bogs and not in bags for compost is an essential part of fighting climate change. We can all play our part by going peat-free in our gardens – here’s all the information you need to make peat-free gardening easy.

How gardeners can help

  • Opt for soil improvers made of composted green waste or farmyard manure, or use homemade compost as a mulch that adds organic matter in your garden or allotment. Using these ingredients frees up other resources up for use in peat-free growing media.

  • Buy peat-free compost. Be aware that peat can still be found in bagged growing media such as multipurpose composts and grow bags. Check wording: if it doesn’t say ‘peat-free’, it probably isn’t. Terms such as ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘organic’ do not necessarily mean peat-free
  • Make your own compost or leaf mould to create home-made soil improvers and potting mixes. If this isn’t possible, put your garden waste in council bins for use locally
  • Buy peat-free plants, using our peat-free nursery list. Ask retailers for peat-free plants – showing that there is customer demand increases motivation for producing peat-free plants
  • Spread the word – share your knowledge with friends and family

Everything you need to know about peat-free growing

Bogs not bags

Keeping peat in bogs – and not in bags – is a crucial part of the fight against climate change. With a wide range of high-quality peat-free composts now available, here’s why it’s essential to leave peat in the ground.

  • Peatlands store over twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined, despite covering a land area ten times smaller. In fact, peat bogs store twice as much carbon as all the vegetation on the planet put together. This makes them the most efficient carbon sink on land.
  • A hectare of healthy peat just 30cm deep stores more carbon than a hectare of rainforest, including all its plants and soils. Peat bogs are often much more than 30cm deep.
  • It takes 100 years to form just 10cm of peat in a peat bog. Extractors can take up to 22 metres of depth at once (=22,000 years to form).

  • Unlike in trees, where carbon is cycled relatively quickly, healthy peat bogs can store carbon for thousands of years.
  • Peat bogs act like a sponge, absorbing intense rainfall and releasing it in a regulated way to reduce flooding.
  • The UK is one of the world’s top 10 countries in terms of peatland area, with nearly 5 million acres.
  • As the habitat is lost, so are the rare species that depend on it.
  • At least 80% of our peatlands have been damaged. We have to protect what remains.

What’s so important about stored carbon?

When carbon is stored in peat bogs as compounds that remain stable for thousands of years, it is ‘locked up’ long-term and not contributing to climate change. When these compounds are exposed to air or burned, such as through draining and harvesting peat bogs, the carbon forms carbon dioxide; a greenhouse gas that escapes into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

What the RHS is doing

RHS gardens are already 98% peat-free. We have pledged to become 100% peat-free in all our operations by the end of 2025, including shows, gardens and retail. We stopped selling peat-based compost in 2019, and from 2026 all plants sold in our retail outlets and on display at our Shows and Gardens will be peat-free. 

The largest peat-free research project globally, the RHS Transition to Peat-Free fellowship is developing solutions to help the horticultural industry sustainably transition away from peat. This five-year collaborative project brings together government, growers and growing media manufacturers to research sustainable alternatives to peat in large-scale commercial settings. The project is led by dedicated research fellow Dr Raghavendra Prasad and includes events and resources for professional growers.

RHS peat policy

Peatlands are the world’s largest terrestrial carbon store and provide valuable ecosystems for wildlife. We share the concerns about the damage peat extraction does to our natural environment and will continue to push for the end of peat use in horticulture.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.