Tuesday 20 April 2010

For Peat's sake...

I was reading the latest Plantlife members mag and noticed that 2010 is meant to be the year that the UK government target for 90% of the total horticultural market to be peat-free is met. Just how likely is this? Apparently in 2007 it was only 54%.

There are so many reasons why we shouldn't be digging up peat. The price of providing gardeners with a light, moisture retentive substance includes: destruction of an incredibly rare habitat along with all the associated plant and animal species, plus peat bogs act as a really important carbon sink (i.e. they store up masses of carbon dioxide. When the peat is dug up the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change). It's the equivalent of burning fossil fuels.

So what can we do to help? Only buy peat-free compost. Check the labelling very carefully. This includes any potted plants, as a lot of nurseries are still growing with peat-based media.

I could've kicked myself recently. We went to the local garden centre (Nottcutts) to pick up a couple of bags of my usual favourite, New Horizon recycled compost. They didn't have any (not even a space for it) but they did have a different brand made from composted bark, labelled peat-free. Previous composted bark compost I've bought has been a bit rubbish, and as there was no sample available, I made a little hole in a sack to see what it was like. As expected it was really big chunks, not suitable for seed sowing etc. But, lo and behold, there was an organic compost which, when making a little hole, was brilliantly light etc, so we bought a couple of bags. Too late, it dawned on me that this was probably full of peat (which is of course 'organic'!), despite it not saying it had peat in it. In fact it didn't say what was in it at all, other than it was from 'organic sources'. It certainly did not say 'peat free'.

So my lesson has been learned....don't fall for misleading labelling. On searching the web I've found another garden centre nearby that does sell my New Horizon compost. I will be emailing Nottcutts to ask them to stock New Horizon again too and point out the dodgy labelling of the 'organic' compost.

I think we all have a responsibility to buy peat free (even better if you don't need to buy compost at all and can produce all you need yourself.) It's not good enough to say that the alternative composts don't perform as well as peat-based ones. The environmental price of buying peat-based is too high.

Lecture over. And excuse the bad peat pun in the title, I'm sure it has been much-used elsewhere.

PS had first of the spring greens tonight. Yum.

Saturday 17 April 2010

It's all happening...

.....early potatoes have peeped through the soil (earthed up today in case of frost), red currant and black currants are in flower, first carrot seedlings are up, PSB (purple sprouting broccoli....not Pet Shop Boys) has had second crop, all the main potatoes are in, all the onions are in, broad beans are up (though getting nibbled by the pea and bean weevils), radishes are up and starting to swell, lettuces have germinated, peas starting to come through..the list goes on

And yet there is still so much more to do (sense of panic anyone?). Things still to sow include; sweetcorn, courgette, PSB and other cabbagey things, pumpkins and other squashes, runner beans, french beans, beetroot, khol rabi, basil, cucumber and rainbow chard of course...the list goes on

...and a greenhouse to put up of course.

So what will tomorrow bring? Mulching, mulching, and more mulching. It's dry as a bone out there and the soil has capped and all those eager little seedlings won't be able to break their way through, so mulching it is. Hmmm, mulch...that's a funny word. Ahem, anyway....mulching and seeding sowing, that's what tomorrow will bring (weather pending).

Wednesday 7 April 2010


...purple sprouting broccoli. Our first harvest today. Was it worth waiting nearly a year (sown May 2009). Oh yes! So tasty, lightly steamed with poached egg on toast (home-made bread too). Just need to get us some chooks to complete the picture.