Peatlands, from which peat is harvested, are the world’s largest carbon store and provide valuable ecosystems for wildlife. As such, the charity has long championed the use of peat-free growing media among its members and over the next few years will be trialling sphagnum moss from sphagnum farming, anaerobic digestate, forest co-products, and waste materials to achieve peat-free status.
RHS gardens are currently 98% peat-free with the exception of some rare and exotic plants. The RHS also stopped selling peat-based bagged compost in 2019, and from 2025 plants sold in its retail outlets and on display at its shows will be peat-free.
The commercial horticulture industry is required to be peat-free by 2030 but, with an estimated two million cubic metres of peat to be replaced, the RHS is calling for greater government support in helping industry make the transition to responsibly sourced alternatives. This includes:
- Providing capital investment, infrastructure allowances and fiscal incentives to help growing media manufacturers and growers update their equipment, facilities, and processes and increase their production and use of peat alternatives.
- Continued support for the Responsible Sourcing Growing Media Scheme.
- Removing red tape attached to waste products that could be developed by growing media manufacturers as peat alternatives.
- Investing in research and development into the production of alternatives to overcome specialist plant and plug plant production and to address supply chain issues.
- Linking the Tree Strategy to the new Peat Strategy to increase the volume of wood products available as a raw material and peat replacement.
The RHS is also calling on gardeners to go peat-free by:
- Buying peat-free bagged growing media.
- Composting to create home-grown soil improver or putting garden waste in council bins for wider use.
- Sharing peat-free successes, tips and advice with friends and family.
The RHS is surveying its 521,000 members to better understand their awareness of the issue and perceived barriers to becoming peat-free and has published new information on its website on caring for soil and peat alternatives. More information can be found at www.rhs.org.uk/peat
Alistair Griffiths, Director of Science and Collections at the RHS, said:
“Our work reveals that the UK’s 30 million gardeners are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their gardens and as part of that are seeking out sustainable alternatives including peat-free products. However, the challenge for industry in finding a replacement for the two million cubic metres of peat used should not be underestimated and is why government support will be crucial in helping to protect this precious resource and ensure our plots are truly green.”
Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, said:
“This is a welcome and important commitment from the Royal Horticultural Society, and it is tremendous to see such innovative alternatives being trialled. Restoring and protecting peat is vital if we are to have thriving ecosystems and a healthy planet.
“The Government is fully committed to transitioning away from the use of peat and we will be setting out plans to end the use of horticultural peat imminently, as part of a package of measures to restore, protect and manage England’s peatlands.”
In 2019 the RHS Science team appointed its first Soil and Climate Change Senior Scientist with a focus on researching growing media and climate change. RHS Science will move to a new state of the art facility, RHS Hilltop, at RHS Garden Wisley in June 2021 that will help facilitate its research programmes and educational work. For more information visit www.rhs.org.uk/hilltop