GTN May/June 2021 - Garden Trade News, UK

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The Peat Issue To sum up….

We are grateful to all of those garden retailers who took the time to share their views with us (especially at such a busy time of year). What is clear is that given it is such a fundamental issue for the horticultural industry action is required as doing nothing is simply not an option. From the responses received many garden retailers are tackling this positively and engaging customers with the journey towards a peat-free future. It is not straightforward, there are issues around the sustainability and availability of alternatives to peat, as well as the wider consumer education piece about what growing media consists of and what it should be used for. But the dialogue continues and only through sharing information and being transparent with customers will progress be made.

to recommend peat-free soil improvers such as manure or mulches to use on the ground to improve the soil. Going forward we need to stop recommending peat-based products to use as soil improvers. It will take time to change the way we think about growing media and what customers are used to using in their gardens. This is addressed in the HTA document as industry-wide support will be needed to educate consumers. “On the question of peat grown plants, we will be working with our growers as they transition towards peatfree. Where plants are grown in peat-free compost we will be highlighting this to our customers. I think it is important that the growers are supported in this transition to peat-free and that there is a level playing field. For example, it cannot be acceptable for peat grown plants to be banned in the UK but peat grown imports from elsewhere are allowed. “Finally, in all of this, it is really important not to lose sight of the importance of gardening to the environment and peoples well-being and mental health. As an industry, we have a real opportunity to address this challenge positively and to educate our customers to make gardening more sustainable for the long term.” Andy Bunker, Director of Altons Garden Centre begins by saying “Well, where do we start ??”

“Following on from watching Gardeners’ World on 14th May anyone in their right mind watching that would never buy peat again. However, industry experts far more knowledgeable than me on the subject would disagree and reading John Ainscow`s piece again he makes some very valid point[s]. Not to mention Peter Seabrook`s stance on the subject constantly pointing out facts that go unmentioned in the defence of peat use in horticulture. “I can say surprisingly that I still have had very few conversations with customers regarding peat-free. Yes, certainly a little more awareness but considering all the media hype, not a lot. We will of course ramp up the promotion of peat-free however being a Tillington member we will be discussing ideas as a group - this is a tremendous advantage as it covers every minor detail. “Independently though I feel GLEE will be hugely important in setting out the road map for the future. One last thing that worries me personally is the one size does not fit all scenario! I remember many moons ago going to a large nursery stock grower up north where he had a trial on 3 perennials where we were looking at the finished plant ready for retail - 1 line was good, 1 was acceptable and 1 was ready for the skip. I fear little has changed in some 20 years with the same issue facing growers now on availability, consistency performance and cost.

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