Charities join forces to call for action against gardeners' use of peat

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The Independent Online

Gardeners are being urged by two leading charities to end the use of peat in their flowerbeds.

The National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are calling on the horticultural industry, major garden owners and the Government to curb the practiceamid worries about amateur gardeners' dependence on peat, despite the increasing availability of alternatives.

In the 1950s peat was considered a panacea for nurserymen and gardeners but is now recognised as a finite resource of environmental and historical importance.

The charities say the increased consumption has come mainly from Britain's gardeners, who use two-thirds of all horticultural peat. This is despite the fact that peat extracted for horticultural purposes comes from a rare and endangered habitat, and despite the increase in the quality and quantity of peat-free products.

Due to a lack of clear labelling on bags, however, many gardeners do not realise they are buying peat. Multi-purpose and other composts are usually peat-based unless they state otherwise.

The National Trust and RSPB want manufacturers and retailers to label product contents more clearly, and are asking gardeners to check the contents of composts.

Mike Calman, the National Trust's head of gardens and parks, said: "Many people remain unaware of the remarkable natural and human history within peat bogs. What has taken 4,000 years to grow has taken us less than 40 years to destroy. The special wildlife and archaeological treasures preserved in peat bogs are being lost forever through peat extraction."

The charities want ministers to back the gardening industry with money for research, development, trials of peat alternatives and industry restructuring to achieve 90 per cent peat-free growing media and materials by 2010.