15:09 11 March 2010
After one of the longest and coldest winters most of us can remember, the first shoots of spring are slowly starting to emerge. And while it is still too early for the nations gardeners to start preparing the beds and borders in their gardens, there is plenty to be done indoors, particularly when it comes to seeding.
Despite the recession, a new, younger generation of Good Life gardeners has emerged according to the latest government figures.
Research released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has revealed a new trend for grow-your-own vegetables lead by the thirty-somethings. In fact, two thirds of people between 30 and 39 are planning to turn their hand to growing vegetables this year, in comparison to 53% of those in their 40s, and 56% of those in their 50s.
However, despite many of us pledging to get outdoors growing our own veg this year or merely back out into our gardens, barely a third of gardeners are aware of the serious environmental issues surrounding the use of peat products.
Many don't realise that most multi-purpose composts and growbags contain peat. And with environmental concerns high on everyone's agenda, choosing your compost is as important as the seeds you select.
Peat is a valuable natural resource formed over many hundreds and thousands of years. The UKs lowland raised peat bogs (from which peat is extracted for horticultural use) are home to many rare animals and plants, as well as offering unrivalled protection for valuable historic artefacts and archaeological remains.
However, many gardeners are not aware that irreversible damage to some of the countrys most valuable habitats and wildlife is being done by buying compost that contains peat. Barely a third of gardeners are aware of the serious repercussions of peat based materials.
Every year, three million cubic metres of peat is used in the UK for horticultural use and sales of multi-purpose compost.
When peat is harvested for use in growing media like multi-purpose compost and growbags, it not only damages precious natural habitats but also releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Just under half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere each year as a result of peat extraction from UK sites alone; thats comparable to the total emissions of over 100,000 homes.
But there is hope - almost four in five of us (78%) say that if they knew more about the damage caused by peat extraction, they would stop using products containing it.
Fortunately there are environmentally friendly compost solutions available, and gardening design guru Diarmuid Gavin has teamed up with Defra to raise awareness of the issue and the benefits of using peat-free compost when planting.
"Consumers' concern about what they can personally do to help protect the environment is at a record high. However, people often struggle to find easy ways to make a big difference," he said.
"Using peat-free compost in the home and garden is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways that people can make a positive environmental impact and reduce their carbon footprint.
"For most uses in the garden (e.g. pots, growbags, hanging baskets, digging into or tidying up flowerbeds) peat-free alternatives are just as good as peat-based compost, and they don't lead to the loss of our valuable peat bogs. Gardeners can have blooming good results with environmental friendly peat-free products."
In the following video, Diarmuid Gavin gives his top tips on preparing your sustainable garden for summer and how to make your garden green in every possible sense by using peat-free compost to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve our valuable peatland habitats and wildlife.
For more information visit www.direct.gov.uk/buyingcompost
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