GTN May/June 2021 - Garden Trade News, UK

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The Peat Issue and will be running trials with various plants in peat-free over the next year or so and understand what does and doesn’t work in peat-free.” Mike Burks, Managing Director, The Gardens Group comments, “We have briefed all staff about the peat debate and why it is happening. We have given training sessions too and have been peat-free in our nursery for a few years now so have first-hand experience of the challenges in growing in peat-free that can be passed on.We have been working with customers for many years (through talks, events, customer trials etc) highlighting the fact that peat will disappear soon and why this is. We have 30 peat-free composts and soil improvers in stock. These are the first that the customers see and we label them as peat-free and most have multi-buys. Peat reduced composts are still available as we believe that it is important to gently wean gardeners away from peat whilst still keeping them successfully gardening whilst they learn the new skills. “The big issue will be the shortage of quality raw materials to replace peat and the industry needs support from government to help with this including the ability to compete with the fuel industry who at present are subsidised whereas we are not. We also need help in accelerating research on new products used and this will include sphagnum moss grown on old peat bogs that are being regenerated. Get used to the word “paludiculture”! “There is also the need for education and a change in the jargon used around growing media. We should be using the limited resources of quality peat-free materials for potting composts and so we should stop using the term multi compost as this encourages gardeners to use those quality materials for a job that doesn’t require such material. For soil improvers, we should be using green waste which is just as good (for soil-improving - not great for potting composts) although work is needed in improving the quality of green waste so that debris including plastic and glass doesn’t find its way into bags. I would also say that we have lost the argument about peat and so there is little point now going through the old debates. We need to get on the front foot about the issue otherwise we will be branded as an environmentally dirty industry (however unfair that is) and so will spend the next decade on the back foot.” Roger Crookes, Garden Industry consultant says, “This is a complex issue – any attempts to offer simple quick solutions I fear may be ill-founded. But anyone who

Where to go for information

Tammy Woodhouse uses the Millbrook Blog to regularly talk to customers about compost.

We have 30 peat-free composts and soil improvers in stock.

The HTA have a number of resources, including FAQs, available for members to help you answer consumer and staff queries about the industry’s proposal on growing media and what Defra has announced in their England Peat Action Plan. It also includes the HTA Task Force Peat position statement on how to transition to responsibly sourced growing media and peat removal put together through working across the industry with partners including the Growing Media Association, NFU, Garden Centre Association and RHS. *Whilst the Defra announcements apply to England only, the topic may come up wherever you are. The recently re-elected Scottish National Party included a ban on horticultural peat in their manifesto. HTA members should log onto the HTA website for further information https://hta.org.uk/news-current-issues/sustainability-roadmap/growing-media.html

8 May/June 2021

thinks that it is okay to plan to do the same as we have always done may be in for a shock! “Communicating with customers can be difficult especially via social media, However, I have cautiously joined in some passionate online discussions and have found that the vast majority of people appreciate a realistic objective approach. Outlook and expectation are everything in a situation like this – we need to have a ‘can do – will do’ attitude, if we only see and speak about the challenges we won’t get far … we really can do this!” Tammy Woodhouse, Manager Director, Millbrook Garden Centres, comments, “As an industry we are well aware of the shortfall of alternative growing media as peat is phased out of the supply chain. It is important I think to note that the industry acknowledges that the transition will require support from the government to accelerate research and development and the manufacture of peat alternatives in order to achieve the government targets and to marry this with the horticultural industry remaining commercial and competitive. “At Millbrook, we have already started the journey to ‘peat-free. This year for every type of compost we are now offering a peat-free alternative and are communicating this to our customers through point of sale, staff training and my customer blog from early March. Alongside this, we are monitoring the volume of peat that we sell to track this reduction. We have already decided to de-list any high peat content composts such as Jack’s Magic. “We have started to re-train our staff about how to recommend compost and growing media to customers and to have a greater understanding of the issues surrounding peat. We believe that we need to think about compost differently and as an industry change the terminology around growing media. We are encouraging our staff to think about ‘potting composts’ which could be peat or peat-free to use in pots and containers and