Peat ban?

Published May 18, 2021

Today, various news outlets are running the story that the UK is going to ban sales of peat to gardeners by 2024.

Details are scant at the moment and it's not really clear exactly what this means. It may be that the ban is on general purpose compost containing peat being sold, which would be reasonable. If you don't need peat, then you shouldn't be buying compost containing it. It's absurd that any general purpose compost should contain peat.

Unfortunately, though, sometimes you do need peat. Carnivorous plants grow natively exclusively in peat bogs. They have evolved to grow in peat. The lack of nutrients found in peat is exactly what spurred them to evolve carnivorous traits. If you put them in richer compost, they die pretty quickly. These plants are so intolerant to excess nutrients that they'll die if you water them with tap water.

People have tried to replace peat in carnivorous plant cultivation, but I'm yet to see any strong results. Maybe I'm not fully up to date, but the results I've seen show very lacklustre growth at best (probably insufficient for germinating and growing seedlings to maturity), and death of mature plants at worst. I tried using a product called Thrive a few years ago, and all the seedlings planted in it died, while those planted in peat grew happily.

I know that Matt Soper of has previously remarked that a peat ban would effectively shut his business. I don't know if he still stands by this in 2021.

None of the news reporting thus far has mentioned carnivorous plants or others that rely on peat at all, which is an unfortunate failure of the role of journalism. I hope that the legislation will include effective exemptions that growers of plants needing peat should still be able to obtain peat and it will just be banned for sale in general purpose compost, but we'll have to see.

Unfortunately, if the ban is as it seems, then after 2023 we're going to see a lot of plants die, many of which are already endangered in their native habitats outside of the UK.

I'm not sure the alternatives are appealing, either.

Coir is often cited as an environmentally friendly alternative. Coir is produced from coconuts. But the coconut farming industry is ethically extremely dubious, likely making use of child labour, and coir workers often suffer lung disease. Not to mention the carbon footprint of shipping tonnes of Coir around the world for it to get to us.

Filed under: carnivorous plants, peat, gardening

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