Ten top tips for peat-free growing success

Seedling pots with peat-free compost
Growing peat-free is the easiest it’s ever been, with a wide variety of peat-free composts available to suit every need and an increasing range of plants available to buy 100% peat-free too.

Knowing the small differences to look out for with peat-free compost makes it even easier, so the RHS peat-free team have
 shared their ten top tips for peat-free gardening.

  1. Water little and often. Always check by poking your finger into the soil to see if it is damp lower down, as some peat-free composts can look dry on top when there is actually plenty of water available lower down. If it’s a small pot, you can also get an idea of how much moisture is in the compost by picking up the pot and feeling how heavy it is.
  2. ​Plants in containers might need feeding more often in peat-free compost. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and choose the right type of feed for your plants.  
  3. You might see small mushrooms growing on the top of your pot. This isn’t anything to be concerned about – simply pinch them off and add to your compost bin/heap or your garden borders. 

  4. Compost binsDon’t use bagged compost on your beds and borders. A lot of resources go into producing bagged compost, so save this for where it is needed – in pots and containers.  Make your own compost or leaf mould to use for mulching and soil improvement.
  5. ​Ask whether the plants you are buying are peat-free. Houseplants, for example, can be hard to find peat-free; and the more people ask, the more nurseries can invest in peat-free growing. You can check our list of peat-free nurseries to find out where you can buy plants that have  been grown 100% peat-free.
  6. Take a bit of time to find the right compost for the plants you are growing. There are lots of specialised mixes for ericaceous, carnivorous, houseplants, seeds and more. Use the instructions on the bag as a guide for feeding and watering.  

  7. Compost won’t keep forever and can degrade if stored for a long time. Try to buy only the amount you need to use within a few weeks. If you have gardening friends you could share bags, particularly for specialised composts, so the entire bag gets used up. Buying larger pack sizes produces less plastic waste than buying multiple smaller bags. You may also want to ask how the retailer has stored their peat-free compost, as if the bags have been stored outside for a long time, that can also cause the compost to degrade.
  8. Peat-free dahlia cuttings​Growing seeds and cuttings may be a little different if you previously grew them in peat, but it’s very easy to do peat-free with a little practice: see our advice for peat-free seeds and cuttings.
  9. For a cheaper option that saves on resources, consider buying bare-root or root-balled plants in the autumn and winter. These can be planted straight in the ground with some organic matter or in a container with your peat-free compost.  

  10. Look out for the Responsible Sourcing Scheme traffic light system on bags, which rates the ingredients on seven environmental criteria. 
See also
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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.