How do I know if my compost is peat free?

How do I know if my compost is peat free?

By Jess Price
Conservation Officer

The Wildlife Trusts are lobbying for a national ban on sales of peat. In 2011, retailers were asked to stop selling peat-based products - but they haven’t. The Government said that if voluntary targets were missed, it would step in with a ban. It is time for this to happen!

We are also encouraging everyone to take the pledge to go peat free. But how do you know if your compost is peat free?

One of the best ways to be certain is to make your own compost, but I realise that this takes time and space that not everyone has access to. So if you are buying compost, you need to look at the labels.

On the front of the pack

If it says ‘peat free’ across the front like this, then that’s a good sign:

JP Peat Free front

Peat Free Front

However, it’s not always advertised across the front. If the bag just says multi-purpose compost then flip it over and check the labelling on the back. 

On the back of the pack

There are a few different ways of labelling peat content, so you might need to take a close look. Here are some examples:

JP Peat Free back
^ You can see the 0% box highlighted above - there's no peat in this compost

Peat Free Back
^ This pack has a blue dial on it which clearly states there is no peat inside, with a large 0% 

Westland label 90% peat
^ The green labelling above looks promising at first glance but actually indicates the compost inside is about 90% peat - one to avoid

Peat free 3 225x300
^ Don't be fooled by the green tick on this compost packaging, it does contain peat

MiracleGro
^ This compost is very clearly labelled and does contain a significant amount of peat -  so is not a sustainable option

Peat free compost should be available at all garden centres but if you can't find any, do ask. If it's not already in a prominent position, multiple enquiries might prompt a better display of peat free products. And if the shop doesn't (yet) stock peat free compost, asking for it helps demonstrate consumer demand. 

Does your local garden centre stock peat free compost? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  • Jane Birdsey:

    16 Apr 2021 13:41:00

    I’m trying to find a peat-free aquatic compost for planting up my new wildlife pond. Was surprised to see that many contain peat, and others don’t give enough information. I’d be very grateful to hear if you know of any? Many thanks

  • 22 Apr 2021 11:01:00

    My nursery is as peat-free as it can possibly be but I find that soil-less composts (peat-based or peat-free) are too insubstantial on their own long term, so I mix 3:3:3 with grit and John Innes #3 – a loam-based compost, but that has some peat in it. As far as I know there is no such thing as a peat-free J.I. compost, but It doesn’t seem like it should be too hard to do – we could campaign for that.

  • Jenny Bourne:

    22 Apr 2021 12:01:00

    Very helpful information and indicative of the ‘greenwashing’ that companies will resort to in order to keep selling products containing peat. Only an outright and total ban on the use of peat for horticulture will suffice.

  • Anne:

    22 Apr 2021 12:11:00

    This proves 2 issues need addressing: consistent peat-free labelling and also bringing the government to account over its lack of enforcement in banning the use of peat

  • Sue Lovelock:

    22 Apr 2021 12:13:00

    HI thank you for the Peat free compost information. Do you also know where I can get compost that does not have insecticides or pesticides in? Sue

    This is a tricky one. The best option is to make your own, providing you do not use pesticide or herbicide in your gardening or in the products you buy e.g. food. You can buy organic peat free compost from suppliers in Sussex. I am not sure there is a proven way to guarantee that the raw material for the compost has not been in contact with herbicides and pesticides, however the ‘organic’ label does go a long way.
  • Sue Wilson:

    22 Apr 2021 12:19:00

    I’m so pleased something is going to be done about this. Then we need to encourage plant growers to go peat free.

  • Rachel Carruthers:

    22 Apr 2021 12:48:00

    Hardly any of my local garden centres stock peat free, some have low peat content. I always ask and i always try to have a conversation with staff/management (Bognor/Pagham area of West Sussex)

  • Jane Roberts:

    22 Apr 2021 12:53:00

    Is organic compost peat free?

    ANSWER: Not necessarily, you still need to check the label to be sure it is peat free. Some packaging can appear misleading, talking about 'Organic' content for example, which could be a applied to compost with peat
  • Mary Gledhill:

    22 Apr 2021 13:10:00

    I was struggling to find good peat free compost locally – I tried a bag of New Horizon but found it a rather lumpy for my seeds. Then I joined my local ‘Horticultural Society’ (posh name for gardening club) and was pleased to find that their allotment shop sells bags of Melcourt Sylvagrow at a reasonable price. It seems fine (in both senses of the word) for seed propagation so far…

  • Mary Gledhill:

    22 Apr 2021 13:11:00

    I was struggling to find good peat free compost locally – I tried a bag of New Horizon but found it a rather lumpy for my seeds. Then I joined my local ‘Horticultural Society’ (posh name for gardening club) and was pleased to find that their allotment shop sells bags of Melcourt Sylvagrow at a reasonable price. It seems fine (in both senses of the word) for seed propagation so far…

  • Peter Luckin:

    22 Apr 2021 15:00:00

    Westland New Horizon is peat free and widely available. Melcourt SylvaGrow Multipurpose is also peat free as is Melcourt SylvaGrow with added John Innes.

  • Roger Brown:

    22 Apr 2021 15:12:00

    I’ve been using peat free wherever possible for many years. But the quality is so variable even with the same brand. I now test all peat free composts before using them. This year the BnQ 0% peat seemed to contain poorly composted shredded wood fibre. Germination and growth of my test seedlings was awful. It seemed to contain no nutrients at all. I had no problems at all with this brand last year.

  • JaneyB:

    22 Apr 2021 19:34:00

    It doesn’t matter how much the individual does The main culprits are growers for the food industry because everyone wants everything all the time. Non peat soils do not give enough to grow out of season products so the best advice you can give to I dividuals is eat food fruit and veg in season only That is the only way to sustain good quality sustainable growth. Using peat free is not addressing the problem

  • Ben Thompson Copsey:

    22 Apr 2021 20:38:00

    The only sure way we are going to add weight to the demand for peat-free compost is by refusing to buy ANY that does not carry a clear statement printed on the bag that it is peat-free.

  • Nicky:

    22 Apr 2021 20:48:00

    Hilliers in Horsham does sell peat free but it is not really great for seeds – would love to find something better. In the meantime I’m using it below the seeds and either sieving it for a fine top layer or using vermiculite which I already have – not sure about the greenest of that product either. Horticulture depends on too many chemicals and lots of plastic – definitely want to move away from that

  • Tony:

    22 Apr 2021 21:55:00

    Why do we all need to have all of this SPECIAL compost etc ? Compost your own, don’t be lazy! It’s good to do and when you use it it’s a great feeling! I get a whole bin full every year! THAT’S HELPING THE PLANET! Not buying from the big boys.

  • Graham D Durrant:

    28 Apr 2021 20:28:00

    Hi, I have have the Melcourt Sylvagrow a really good peat free option in recent years and it is now available at my local garden center and online.

  • Julia Macfarlane:

    01 May 2021 10:56:00

    We buy several bags of compost a year and would like to buy local (Bognor Regis). We visited 4 garden centres and not a single one had peat-free in stock! we came home and ordered online. This is not good enough! If consumers and garden centres aren’t listening then the Government needs to ban it – and quickly.

  • Lynne James:

    04 May 2021 14:47:00

    We have also found it impossible to find peat free in local garden centres (Bognor Regis). Can we start a petition for a total ban?

  • Sue Wilson:

    19 May 2021 17:11:00

    I’m so pleased something is going to be done about this. Then we need to encourage plant growers to go peat free.

  • Stephanie Card:

    19 Jun 2021 08:28:00

    It is really hard to find good peat free compost locally. I bought two bags of orvanic compost online and the first was om but the second was full of sticks and too rough for seeds – grew mushrooms!

Leave a comment