If you are an experienced gardener, you may already be familiar with peat, but if not you may be wondering what the fuss is all about?
Peat, is a common material used in potting soil, which is extracted from carbon rich environmentally sensitive areas known as ‘peatlands’. Sadly, this extraction leads to habitat destruction and huge carbon emissions, depleting our earth of an essential natural resource. By choosing peat-free houseplants, you can help reduce the demand for peat and minimize your environmental impact.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at why suppliers are moving away from using peat, the benefits of peat free houseplants and what sustainable alternatives there are already available. Whether you're a seasoned plant enthusiast or just starting your green journey, there's sure to be a peat free houseplant that's perfect for you. Let's get started!
- Peat is a common material used in potting soil that is extracted from carbon-rich environmentally sensitive areas called peatlands, leading to habitat destruction and huge carbon emissions.
- Peat has little to no nutrients, is far too acidic for many houseplants, and can become hydrophobic.
- The UK government is banning the sale of peat to amateur gardeners from 2024 to protect peatlands and the environment.
- There are sustainable peat free medium alternatives including coir (coconut fibres), bark compost, wood fibres, and green waste/compost.
- The future of horticulture lies in more sustainable and eco-friendly practices, where houseplants are good for the earth as well as our homes and health.
- Choosing peat-free houseplants helps reduce the demand for peat and helps reduce your environmental impact.
The disadvantages of growing houseplants in peat
Historically, peat has been the go-to growing medium for houseplants as it is fairly cheap to transport, readily available, plus it has a great texture! In fact, the biggest use of peat is for horticultural use by amateur gardeners.
The importance of peatlands for our environment and helping to fight climate change cannot be overstated, protecting peatlands is absolutely critical to helping fight climate change. However, putting aside the negative environmental impacts of peat, there are also some disadvantages using peat for your houseplant’s health too:
- Peat is far too acidic for many houseplants
- Peat has little to no nutrients, which means that it constantly needs be topped up with fertiliser.
- It does a good job of storing water, but if you allow the soil to dry out it can then subsequently become hydrophobic, where is actually repeals water and absorbs moisture poorly
Peat use has become so controversial in recent years, that the UK government are banning the sale of peat “to amateur gardeners from 2024 in an attempt to protect peatlands and the natural environment”.
Luckily for you some ahead of the curve suppliers have already started to transition to peat free alternatives, YES, there are sustainable alternatives out there!!
What are the peat free alternatives?
As the ban comes into effect in 2024, suppliers and consumers must look to peat free alternatives to help our houseplants thrive. Thanks to an influx of research and development there are now many great peat free alternatives readily available for you buy.
Coir (coconut fibres)
- Coir is a waste product from the coconut industry, made up of the outer husks of the coconut and is the most widely used peat free alternative.
- It provides great air circulation for houseplants through its mix of fine and coarse fibres reducing the risk of root rot.
- It is great for water and nutrient retention.
- Dried coir blocks are light, therefore cheap to transport. You just need to add water and they swell ready for use.
- The drawback is that most coir is imported from Sri Lanka – here at Geb & Green this disadvantage is overcome by recycling coir, we do not buy in any virgin coir from Sri Lanka.
- A by-product from the forestry timber industry. The small pieces of coniferous bark are composted at high temperatures killing any pests.
- The key benefits of using bark is that it absorbs water and nutrients well and releases them slowly to the plant. Bark has a stable PH value.
- High heat is used to split waste wood into its fibrous constituents.
- The key benefit of using wood fibres is that the provide great aeration for your houseplants.
- One of disadvantages of using wood fibres, is they require more frequent watering as they store water poorly. Despite drainage being fairly good, word fibre nutrition content is incredibly low.
- Green waste, what you put into your household green bin, contains nutrients that are important for plant health and growth.
- The downsides to green waste are that it can be contaminated with plastic and chemical residues, also it can be quite smelly to bring into your home.
- We recommend keeping your green waste from your compost bins for your gardens rather than houseplants.
Geb & Green’s peat free houseplants
Image: hands from our collection holding coir
Here at Geb & Green we grow all our houseplants in a recycled, coir growing medium.
We avoid using any virgin growing material, avoiding the need to import new coir, simply by taking waste material that has previously been used to grow cut flowers and soft fruits, and sterilising it ready to grow your beautiful houseplants.
When your houseplants are ready to pot, we recommend using a multi-purpose peat free medium, and then in the growing months of spring and summer, regularly fertilising your houseplants to provide the nutrition that they need for growth.
We grow and supply a beautiful range of houseplants all grown in a peat free medium. We see a more sustainable forward thinking horticulture industry, where our houseplant are good for the earth as well as our homes and health.