And what is in your compost?

Not peat! Certainly not from 2024. You must have seen. You’ve heard the news, right? Maybe you heard us shout “About bloody time!”

Sales of peat for use on private gardens and allotments will be banned in England from 2024, the government has announced.”

“Peatlands are the UK’s largest carbon store but only approximately 13% of our peatlands are in a near-natural state.” says the government’s press release.

That’s not news to us. We know that peatlands are precious and dwindling in health, like many of our ecological systems. Peatlands are unique habitats, supporting many specially-adapted species, while storing water and sequestering carbon. “Peatlands are the UK’s largest carbon store,” so say the government.

What’s more, it’s completely unecessary to use it in our gardening!

As a business, we have never and are commited to never use peat. We have been selling quality peat free composts since we started business in 2021. If you want to stock up before price rises, place an order with us this autumn.

If not peat…

We (informed gardeners and growers) have got so hung up for decades on advocating for not using peat, we’ve maybe neglected to talk enough about what is in our composts! What are you growing plants in? When you buy a bag of peat free compost, sure it’s free of peat but what is it?

Wood

Composted wood bark and fibre can make up a major percentage of the compost. Felled trees* are processed in a sawmill then transported to be composted.

*Wood fibre (woodchips) doesn’t necessarily mean the felling of trees, ramial chipped wood is made from smaller diameter branches, from pruning and pollarding, for example.

Coir

Coir is coconut husk. The majority is imported from India and Sri Lanka (approx. 14,000 miles from the UK). It’s a natural byproduct of the coconut crop. Coir is low in nutrients, though it does take a long time to break down – it adds structure and helps retain moisture.

Wool

Dalefoot composts are wool based, which are rich in nutrients; nitrogen from the wool is released slowly, so much so that Dalefoot confidently say there’s no need to feed for 12 months.

Other elements

There needs to be nutrition. This may come from chemical fertiliser or plant-based. Typically, there’s only enough for a while, then supplementary feeding is needed to keep plants growing.

Dalefoot clearly communicate that they add comfrey extract to their composts. Good move, we say – comfrey is a plant that accumulates minerals, helped by having deep taproots. It’s rich in potassium, which is essential for good fruiting. It also contains vitamin B12.

Seaweed meal is added by Melcourt to SylvaGrow compost to aid plant growth. It contains trace elements necessary for healthy plants.

Not sure what compost to use for starting seeds, potting, or feeding the soil? We wrote another post about that earlier this year.

What does it matter what’s in my compost?

“Cause you are what you eat and you are what what you eat eats and you’re even what what what you eat eats eats.” Got that? Yeah, we’re inately connected to our soil.

Graham Bell, permaculture teacher puts it best, in my view: “For me soil is right up the top there, a micron or two behind air and water. But whilst without these two gifts we cannot survive today, soil is the basis of long term survival. In fact it is demonstrably the true foundation of civilisation. That is­ fertile, accessible, living soil.”

As you’ve read above, there’s plenty of parts that are used to make up a compost. There’s something missing, though, that I’ve not yet written about. Life. (How long have you got?) I mean, the life you can’t see – biology. Microbes: bacteria, protozoa, fungi, mold, and so on.

What life is in the compost you’re using to grow? We’re excited to help you understand more and work towards answering that question! Oh what a tease.

On Friday 16 September we’ll be popping up 11am-2pm at De Bradelei Mill, outside Eartharmony and Vegan Revelation for a My Green Community event. We will be demonstrating how to learn to grow more plants, how to make biochar, and how to compost with worms.

Moreover, watch this space for an email from us. We will make an announcement about how we intend to help you improve your soil health in 2023 and beyond.

Sign up to receive our e-mails on our homepage.

Ban peat for professional use

One more thing before we go. We urge the government to get on with it and announce the date for the outright ban of peat use, for professional as well as amateur horticulture. Commercial nurseries still using peat must transition now.

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