Titchmarsh named and shamed as peat compost row cuts up rough

A survey of some of Britain's leading gardening experts, including the former Gardeners' World presenter Alan Titchmarsh, shows less than half use peat-free compost.

The results of the survey by the RSPB wildlife charity look set to reignite the debate over peat extraction, which has raged for 20 years. Last week, Alan Titchmarsh was criticised by Friends of the Earth for arguing in Gardeners' World magazine, that sometimes there was no alternative for gardeners.

The RSPB wants a Government tax on peat products – such as £1 on the average bag of compost – to encourage people to buy greener alternatives. Conservationists say extracting peat for use in gardens in the UK, much of which is from Ireland and the Baltic, leads to carbon dioxide emissions and damages natural habitats and wildlife.

According to the survey of 27 gardeners, broadcasters and writers, two-thirds backed the Government's aim of phasing out peat products. Most also thought consumers did not know enough about the environmental impact of peat extraction to make an informed decision.

Alys Fowler, former presenter of the BBC's Gardeners' World and The Edible Garden, who does not use peat, said a levy on peat products would make "a real difference". She said: "I think there needs to be more education about the benefits of the non-peat compost – it can be just as effective as peat.

"As well as reducing carbon emissions and protecting peat bog habitats, peat-free compost is also a great way of recycling our waste. Just as we do not have endless peatbogs, we also do not have bottomless landfill sites."

Writing in Gardeners' World, Mr Titchmarsh defended his green credentials, saying he mostly gardened organically, conserved water and supported wildlife in his garden. But he said he used peat compost for seedlings that would otherwise fail to thrive. Other gardeners who still used peat include Noel Kingsbury, Christine Walkden, Helen Yemm, Bob Flowerdew and Adam Pasco, editor of Gardeners' World.

The RSPB said some of those who responded to their poll were concerned that the lack of decent and widely available peat-free alternatives was a problem for gardeners keen to make the switch from peat.

Olly Watts of the RSPB said: "Peat extraction is a significant source of carbon emissions and causes destruction of natural habitats. Many gardeners understand this and are reducing the amount of peat-based compost they use, or switching to an alternative."

But he said the Government should introduce a non-voluntary approach such as a levy to create financial incentives for consumers to switch and for industry to step up the challenge to develop high-quality alternatives to peat-based compost.

Gardening writer and broadcaster Nigel Colborn argued that peat should be rationed. "Until now, no satisfactory material has been proven to work as efficaciously as sphagnum moss peat. The material has unique qualities of water absorption and retention, couple with an extremely slow decomposition rate," he said.

"At its height, Irish horticultural peat production was in the region of 240,000 tonnes per annum, compared with the 7.5 million tonnes burnt in the Republic's power stations," Mr Colborn said. "And the horticultural peat was a by-product, scraped from the top of the bog, before the 'turf' was extracted. Presumably, that by-product is now simply going to waste, or is being sold to Britain's competitors in Holland, Italy, France," Mr Colborn added.

The Nursery Owner's Story

No excuses: the alternatives are cheap and easy

I haven't used peat for over 10 years. Until four years ago I was an amateur gardener, but in 2007 I took over the Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery in Cheshire, producing 30,000 herbaceous perennials, shrubs, trees and annuals each year. The nursery has not used peat since I took over. Everything goes in commercially supplied peat-free compost – I use New Horizon (and no, I don't get commission from them, nor do I sell their compost).

Visitors comment daily on how healthy our plants look. On Monday, we open under the National Garden Scheme and I'm confident everything will look wonderful. The trouble with Alan Titchmarsh's remarks are that amateur gardeners listen to him, and the message is clear – if the great AT can't grow without peat, then they surely can't. And that, I'm sorry to say, is simply not true. Sue Beesley

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game