World Soil Day: 4 ways to improve your soil and avoid peat

December 5, 2020 7:30:12 AM

World Soil Day: 4 ways to improve your soil and avoid peat

Some might say soil is the making of a garden – but where there’s good, there’s often bad too. And while peat has its benefits, unfortunately it’s hugely damaging to the environment and wildlife.

“Using peat to improve your soil is one of the worst things you can do to the environment and wildlife,” says Gena Lorraine, gardening expert at Fantastic Services. “At its true form, peat stores thousands of pounds of CO2 and while it can make our lawns greener, the harvesting of peat is destroying habitats.”

Indeed, broadcaster, writer and celebrity TV gardener Monty Don has joined horticultural and environmental charities to call for a ban on the use of peat in compost by 2025, noting: “There is no garden, however beautiful, that justifies the scale of environmental damage or contribution to climate change that peat use causes.”

“The extraction of peat for horticultural use is an act of environmental vandalism. It causes irreparable environmental damage,” he adds.

In honour of World Soil Day (December 5), here’s how to pot to your heart’s content in a green, eco-friendly gardener’s world…

1. Choose peat-free products

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Peat-free compost is suitable for potting and sowing seeds, but make sure you look for peat-free on the label. According to the RHS, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘compost’ and ‘organic’ compost aren’t always peat-free.

2. Re-use old compost

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If last season’s buds are looking lacklustre or half-dead (make sure they haven’t died from a disease or garden pest), you can use the remains and roots to pep up existing soil. Shake the soil from around the roots and use it to top up tubs and plants, and help seal in moisture. They’ll be blooming marvellous come the spring.

3. Make your own compost

Leaf mould (a natural fibrous material) – freely available thanks to autumn fallen leaves – is ideal for potting compost, and acts as a soil conditioner. If you’ve lots of fallen leaves in the garden, gather them up and put them in a large bin. Once they’ve rotted down, the soil-like material can be sieved through and used as compost (in addition to your kitchen and garden waste) or mulch.

4. Supercharge your soil with alternative materials

Bark chippings can be used for mulching. Not only will they help insulate the roots of your plants during winter, but they’ll keep the soil moist in summer and prevent weeds from getting out of control.

Likewise, eco-friendly coir (coconut fibre) can be used for sowing seeds,  growing plants and lining hanging baskets. It’s rich in nutrients and retains much more water with the added benefit of good drainage. Happy planting!