The bog has landed! Peatland on display at RHS Chelsea to highlight how gardeners can protect landscapes by switching to peat-free composts
Curlews, lapwing, the hum of billions of insects…. and the occasional squelch – the sounds of a peatland captured and to be heard over a little piece of Cumbrian peatland, on loan from Natural England, and installed in the Discovery Zone at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
The critical importance of UK peatlands to our climate will be brought home to gardeners at the show in this unique exhibit by peat-free compost maker Dalefoot Composts and the Eden Project.
Under special license from Natural England, a slice of bog ‘borrowed’ from peatland previously harvested for horticulture will go on show to demonstrate the environmental damage gardeners are causing to our planet by using peat compost in their outdoor spaces.
In the immersive Discovery Zone display, gardeners will be invited ‘to step into’ the borrowed slice of National Nature Reserve (NNR) peatland from a restored Cumbrian bog to experience the secrets, sounds and beauty of these enormous bog gardens. The peatland display will be given expert care whilst at the show to make sure it remains hydrated and will be returned to its natural home once Chelsea has finished.
Alongside, a bountiful potager of vegetables and companion planting grown by gold-medal-winning Pennard Plants, will illustrate what gardeners can achieve in their own plot by switching to peat-free gardening. All of these plants have been grown in Dalefoot Compost’s peat-free products which are Soil Association-approved for organic growing.
Peatlands only occupy about 3% of the Earth’s land surface but are the largest terrestrial carbon store on the planet. UK peatlands cover around 12% of its land area and store 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, more than twice that of the UK’s forests*, as well as being very important habitats for biodiversity.
Professor Jane Barker is the co-founder of Dalefoot Composts which is a major manufacturer of peat-free compost and a leading restorer of damaged peatlands, including the NNR site in Cumbria.
She said: “Up until now, the scientific understanding underpinning individual gardeners’ responsibility to climate change gardening has not been well communicated. We want to demonstrate how you can easily make a difference in your own garden by ditching the use of peat and switching to peat-free compost.
“The importance of peat and peatlands to our climate and the planet have also not been made clear or accessible for our gardeners, whilst trees have taken centre stage and are much easier to relate to. However, peat is hugely significant to our climate’s future.”
The timeline of a bog will be illustrated in the RHS Chelsea exhibit to show the thousands of years peat represents. Peat grows at only 1mm per year and this will be contrasted to the bags of peat compost it would yield and the short season of growth that peat might give gardeners.
Whilst the Government has set targets for peatland restoration and is currently consulting on a peat ‘ban’, in amateur gardening there remains a significant resistance to switching to peat-free and it is predicted even more peat could be used in the future. Of the 5.44 million cubic metres of growing media used in 2020, 79% was used by amateur gardeners. Two-thirds of peat sold in the UK is from Europe, meaning we are effectively exporting our carbon footprint. Voluntary targets set for peat sellers have had little impact and the new target of ending peat sales by 2024 is being questioned for being too slow and not enough.
This is the latest initiative by Dalefoot Composts and the Eden Project to promote the sustainability benefits of peat-free gardening. Dalefoot’s Wool Compost for Potting is endorsed by the world-renowned environmental charity and social enterprise, and the two organisations have plans to work together on other future initiatives.
Dalefoot will be supporting six show gardens and exhibits at RHS Chelsea with its peat-free compost
– The New Blue Peter Garden: Discover Soil by Juliet Sargeant; Brewin Dolphin Garden by Paul Hervey-Brookes; The Mothers for Mothers – This Too Shall Pass Garden by Pollyanna Wilkinson; The Wild Kitchen Garden by Ann Treneman; RHS Queen’s Jubilee Photographic Exhibit by Dave Green, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency – Don’t Risk It! exhibit.
Two of the company’s peat-free composts have also been shortlisted in the RHS Chelsea Sustainable Garden Product of the Year 2022 – Wool Compost for Potting and Wool Compost Double Strength.
Stand GPA 105 in the Discovery Zone of the Great Pavilion – Stand AR 545 for Dalefoot Compost
For further information contact Emma Mason on email@example.com 07762 117433 or Ben Foster, Media and Engagement Manager, bfoster@EdenProject.com For more info, go to www.edenproject.com
Bolton Fell Moss is a lowland raised bog damaged through commercial extraction of peat but has since begun a journey of restoration thanks to an ongoing project by Natural England. Extraction ended in 2013 but left a vast expanse of dry, bare peat where limited wildlife could survive. Restoration work has raised the water levels; bog vegetation was then introduced but it will take time for the sphagnum mosses to cover the bare peat and for other bog plants to return. It could take up to 30 years for the bog to fully recover.
Dalefoot’s story – The entrepreneurial couple behind Dalefoot, environmental scientist Jane Barker and farmer Simon Bland, started making compost from the natural ingredients around their Cumbrian farm in 1997. Inspired by early 20th century gardening books that mentioned wool as a garden mulch, and a desire to make good use of the invasive bracken growing on the fells, the couple invented their secret compost recipe, bagged the product up themselves and started selling at local farmers’ markets. Twenty years later the compost is sold across the UK and the business employs 25 local people, and sources bracken and wool from farmers.
The Dalefoot team also restores peat bogs, some of which were once owned by peat compost companies, across the country for the likes of Natural England, NatureScot, South West Water and Wildlife Trusts. Peat bogs store more carbon than forests and many in the UK are now in poor condition, releasing carbon rather than storing it. Dalefoot works with these agencies to help reduce carbon release and return the bogs to functioning, healthy eco-systems. In 2022 Dalefoot announced a total of 3.8 million tonnes of carbon saved through their restoration projects.
The range is available online at www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk from £12.75 per bag down to £8.50 each for orders of 50 bags plus delivery, and also from a growing list of stockists. Tel: 01931 713281 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org