Or, at least, we’re trying to …..
The debate about peat use by gardeners and the horticultural trade has been running for many years now, and we have always taken an interest in it. The trouble is, as with many such issues, both sides can put forward convincing arguments to support their particular perspective on it. The gardening media have tended to be rather pious about this – see this BBC site, for example – and any reference to growing media on Gardeners’ World is always prefixed with ‘peat-free’.
We suppose we have always been attracted by the notion of using alternatives to peat, but have prioritised healthy pant development and, we have to admit, cost. Professional growing media are expensive, perhaps about twice the price of the stuff the public are offered at B&Q and elsewhere, and for a long time the peat-free versions were significantly more costly than the peat-based ones. As a nursery which tries hard to offer value for money, we have to take these things into account.
Over the years we have tried variations on peat-based media, finally settling for one involving three grades of peat and a proportion of bark, and our plants have done well in that. So it was hard to justify change. But when the price of the peat-based media escalated to come close to that of the peat-free, we decided to take the plunge.
So we have recently started potting up into a coir fibre pith mix incorporating perlite and short and long-term fertilisers. It’s certainly a joy to work with, being light and clean. It takes up water very well and seems to retain it too. Two advantages we are hoping to see from the move are lack of shrinkage when the medium dries out in hot weather and no waterlogging in wet winters. We have talked to some other nurseries using this product who attest to this. Interestingly, one of them said they found everything grew well in the medium – except poppies! So we may have to do something different for them.
So we will be keeping a close eye on the plants we are currently potting up, hoping that this new move will prove horticulturally successful as well as keeping our ethical conscience clear.
Rob & Joanna – July 2009