Despite my efforts to focus on sustainability when it comes to allotment gardening and within my broader life, I am not proud of the fact that I have not prioritised my purchasing of peat-free compost.
In 2002, Monty Don wrote an article in The Guardian urging gardeners to stop buying peat based products for their little havens. At the time of the article’s publication, it was reckoned that 95 per cent of British peat bogs had been lost to gardeners and their reliance on peat-based compost.
That was 17 years ago!
Our attempts to create our own little wildlife havens has meant we have simply robbed from another. What is it about peat that has driven us to use so much of it in our gardens?
Peat has been used for so long because it’s cheap and reliable. It’s attractive, smells good and is easy to handle. It’s light, retains moisture well and still drains freely. It’s sterile, so can be used on a commercial basis without the concern of diseases being spread by it. Home gardeners have simply followed suit because they think it is the professional way to produce the plants we wish in our gardens.
However, the truth is peatland wildlife depends upon peat. Our gardens do not.
Peat extraction not only decimates the habitat for a wealth of plants, animals and insects, peat bogs also absorb and store carbon dioxide from our atmosphere too. The continuous exploitation of these bogs means the carbon dioxide they store is released, adding to our global warming problems.
Cost is a huge driver in the purchases we make. I understand it is something many of us focus on when we buy the compost we do to enable us to produce the plants and crops for our gardens and allotments. I want to ensure the practice of allotment gardening and all the wonderful benefit’s it brings to our lives is accessible, but we have to remember that the cost that is not burdened by our wallets is undoubtedly laden upon something else.
One way to mitigate the cost of compost is to make as much of it as we can ourselves. This is cost-free – well, except the cost of our time and energy – but I believe it to be well spent and not necessarily cost that much of our time at all. I made a concerted effort to do this last year, adding every scrap of kitchen waste, every blade of mowed lawn and every inch of green allotment waste to the pile. I know I can still do better.
The other way is to use alternatives – Peat free compost and other organic matter – to sow and grow our plants.
Last month, Coco & Coir asked if I’d like to try their ‘Coco Peat’ which contains 100% Natural Coconut coir and no peat at all. Coir is the result of processing the threadlike fibres on the husk of coconuts. It’s been used in doormats and brooms and it also makes an excellent potting mix for our seeds and plants.
Coco coir is an inert growing substance with a pH level near neutral. It arrives in a solid, dry block and needs to be hydrated with water to become a loose, fibrous potting medium to use as a substitute for compost. I have a 5kg bag and I’m amazed at how far it will go when water is added to it.
You can use coco peat without anything added to it. It has a wonderful quality to it – soft, light and fluffy. It retains water well but drains easily too. However, you must be careful to not overwater as although the surface dries out, it retains moisture very well down at root level.
When potting my plants on, I’ve added the coir to peat-free compost and some perlite as the plants will want more in the way of nutrients when they get going.
The other appealing characteristic to Coco Coir is it is recyclable. When it’s served its purpose of raising seedlings, it adds a ‘peat’ like quality when incorporated with other organic matter such as peat-free compost.
After a month of testing Coco Peat in my garden, I will happily continue to use the coir as I make the conscious effort to stop using any peat based composts in my allotment activity.
Coco Peat is available direct from Coco &Coir. If you buy Coco Peat in March, you can get 10% off using the promo code: COCOMAR10
Disclaimer: Coco & Coir have gifted me a 5kg bag of ‘Coco Peat’ for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own.