Saturday, 30 April 2011
For Peat's Sake
Sunshine brightens the spirit of most but there are always a few hanging around in the wings, intent on casting clouds.
This week we've had 'academics' proclaiming pets should be called companions and their owners renamed human carers. Horse owners aren't too impressed and neither am I. It's nonsense but all that is needed is for one of those lobbying groups to grab hold of the idea and before we can say "Duke and Duchess of Cambridge", it will be legislation. Those who have followed the smoking lobbies' actions will understand how speedily nonsense becomes fact.
Also this week the Westminster government drafted in the help of the BBC's Gardeners' World in a effort to persuade the public to stop using peat compost. In 1999 the government set an aim to eliminate peat from all but 10% of compost by 2010, but it is still present in 46% of the compost sold in Britain. Thank goodness.
Hilary Benn, launching his campaign at Kew Gardens, blamed amateur gardeners for using peat. "Our research shows us that gardeners often don't realise the damage that peat extraction causes or that the compost they're buying contains peat."
I'm fortunate enough to have space to produce my own compost and in addition I've purchased peat-based compost for years. The past two years I tried products without peat at the request of my local garden centre. Not only was the peat-free product twice the price of my usual purchase but the results in many cases were poor, so this year it's back to the mix I prefer.
Defra intend to hold talks with retailers this summer about how they can meet their 2020 target. Dr Mark Avery of the RSPB:
"The Government has missed the chance for an easy win in the fight against climate change. Using peat in gardens releases a million tonnes of CO2 every year. Removing it from composts and grow-bags would cut those emissions at a stroke and would be the same as taking about 350,000 cars off the road. It would also help end the destruction of our precious peat bogs and the loss of birds, plants and insects that rely on them."
Easy win right enough - punishing the amateur gardener. Until Defra's proposals include commercial growers, who account for around 33% of its use, then I refuse to be brow-beaten into using less effective expensive products.
Prior to writing this post I contacted an Irish friend who supplies peat to the horticultural industry and sent him Dr Avery's quote. He insists that his industry respects the bogs and has a self-imposed annual quota in place, although the environmentalist movements in Ireland continue to put pressure on them to reduce the quotas. His suggestion that amateur gardeners are an 'easy touch' may not be too short of the mark.