Unsustainable compost is the guilty secret behind many happy houseplants, but greener fixes are a win for us all!
It may feel like there’s been little to celebrate in the headlines lately, so news that the government is banning sales of peat-based compost from 2024 is a rare silver lining. It matters to you and me for two very big reasons. Firstly, peatlands – precious habitats that make up around 12 per cent of the UK’s land area – are more than three times as effective at storing carbon as forests, making them an important factor in the fight to slow climate change. Secondly, peatlands have long been plundered for horticultural use, and with more of us than ever finding pleasure in greening our homes with fabulous houseplants, we find ourselves squarely in the frame.
The announcement of the ban, and a £50m fund to help restore one per cent of the UK’s depleted peat lands, has been cautiously welcomed. “The nation’s peatlands have an amazing ability to absorb carbon and support nature, which makes them an important natural solution to the climate and nature crisis,” says Paul de Zylva of Friends of the Earth. “This plan looks encouraging and could be worth the wait, with an end to the selling of peat for gardening use in sight.” But it’s not all good news. Campaigners had called for a ban to begin at the end of 2021, and every day that goes by means more destruction to this precious habitat. It’s time to give peat the push and find more ecological means to support your home’s interior ecosystem. Why not try…
- Coconut husk
Coir, known to most of us as the hairy plant fibre that forms the husk of coconuts, is a great growing medium. It’s sold in dried and compressed bricks in biodegradable packaging (another advantage over plastic-bagged peat) and springs to life when you add water.
- Pimped soil
Perlite is something of a hero among horticulturists, adding air and improving drainage in the clay or loam soils that most of us encounter in our local environment. Depending on the geology where you live, perlite is a great way to improve simple soil to a growing medium that your houseplants will love.
- Clay balls
LECA (or ‘lightweight expanded clay aggregate’) is the rather chic terracotta-red pebble that you might have seen around the base of houseplants. Able to absorb and slowly release moisture, they’re another way to support your indoor greenery. They don’t bring any nutrients to the table, however, so adding a dash of plant food when watering is essential.
- Homemade compost
If you have outdoor space for an extra bin or two, the most sustainable substrate of all can be yours. An open-bottomed bin will welcome your paper and cardboard packaging along with kitchen peelings, eggshells, teabags, coffee grounds, lawn mowings and plant clippings. In return you get a rich, crumbly compost that smells of the woodland floor. Use it neat or mix with other materials to lower the cost of going peat-free