Two of the modern peat-free composts I’ve been sowing and growing in successfully for several years, are a-changing. It’s all down to rebranding, and to one business being taken over by another (after it went bust).
It’s always tedious when businesses start tinkering with proven, recognisable brands, but it’s something our often fickle gardening industry seems particularly prone to.
This is a summary of what’s happening to two brands of peat-free compost that many gardeners have been relying on for some time.
VITAL EARTH MULTI PURPOSE COMPOST – those bright orange bags are gone for good.
Vital Earth’s packaging was one of the most recognisable of all, meaning this top-performing peat-free compost stood out amongst the mountains of nature-wrecking peat-based (some of it 100% peat) composts that still loom tall in most garden centres and other outlets.
But the Vital Earth brand has been killed off. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the same reliable peat-free mix can now be found in a different bag, sold under the ‘Growise’ brand, as Bord na Móna Growise Peat Free Multipurpose Compost (right). Bord na Móna tell me that this is a direct replacement for Vital Earth Multi Purpose Compost, and is still made primarily from UK- and Irish-sourced ‘green waste’, composted and refined under exacting conditions. There’s still some orange on the bag, too.
The equally easily spotted blue and red bags of Vital Earth Multi Purpose Compost with added John Innes are also no more. But there’s more good news for those who’ve grown great plants using this mix (including me); it’s now available as Growise Peat Free Multipurpose Compost with added John Innes in a new-look blue-themed bag (below).
Bord na Móna tell me that all of the Growise soil improvers, which have replaced the Vital Earth range, are completely peat-free.
Bord na Móna – don’t they dig up sphagnum peat bogs to make peat-based composts?
Indeed they do. Bord na Móna has long been a company which mines peat to sell for both fuel and for horticultural and gardening use. But times are changing. Bord na Móna now talks of having a ‘contract with nature’ (whatever that actually means), and states that it will ‘never again … open another peat bog’. This is encouraging news. Read more on Bord na Móna’s future thinking here, and reach your own conclusions.
Should I avoid buying peat-free composts from companies that also sell peat-based mixes?
It’s easy – perhaps a little lazy – to simply avoid buying a modern and reliable peat-free compost because its manufacturer still peddles peat-based composts as well. But think of it like this: for every bag of peat-free compost you pop in the trolley, it means one more bag of peat-based compost stays on the pile. That sends a powerful message to garden centres and shops that gardeners want reliable, top quality peat-free composts which, unlike peat, don’t harm nature and unlock carbon stores.
It’s called voting with your shopping trolley. Us gardeners wield a powerful ‘green pound’ which, if used wisely, can help reshape the compost-making industry by turning it a whole lot greener.
For more information on the Growise compost range visit www.thegreenergardener.com
NEW HORIZON ORGANIC & PEAT FREE MULTI-PURPOSE COMPOST – same name, new bag, but a completely different mix.
Westland Horticulture took over the previous manufacturer of New Horizon Organic & Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost (William Sinclair Horticulture Ltd) in 2016. Since then, they have reformulated this peat-free compost so that it no longer contains any ‘green waste’, which is what the old tried and trusted New Horizon was based on. The new-look bags of New Horizon (below) now contain the same basic mix that’s also sold as Gro-Sure Peat Free All-Purpose Compost (a blend of coir, wood fibre and bark).
Westland tell me that the two mixes are the same; the only difference is that New Horizon contains an ‘organic’ fertiliser, while Gro-Sure Peat Free contains inorganic fertilisers, including one that’s controlled release (the small pale-coloured orbs found in the compost).
So it’s goodbye ‘old’ New Horizon. But – you guessed it – there’s even more good news. Gro-Sure Peat Free (the same mix that’s now in New Horizon bags) has been a good doer for me in my garden, and has performed consistently well in my compost trials. It has a different feel to it that what you might be used to with the original New Horizon, but it’s well worth a try.
The reason New Horizon no longer contains green waste is because Westland believe that ‘green waste is simply not up to the standard or consistency required by all and is not delivering the results our consumers deserve’.
It’s a curious comment, given that New Horizon has been a mainstay of peat-free gardening for many, for many years. You can’t help wondering whether scaremongering by pro-peat (and by association anti-nature) gardening pundits has finally gotten a bite.
Westland Horticulture – don’t they dig up sphagnum peat bogs to make peat-based composts?
Indeed they do, but unlike Bord na Móna, I can’t find anything on their website suggesting they’re planning any time soon to stop (or even think about stopping) the mining of sphagnum moss peat to turn into compost for gardeners. Should you avoid buying a modern and reliable peat-free compost from a company that also sells an extensive range of peat-based composts (including ‘Jack’s Magic’ which is almost 100% peat), as well as many pesticides and weedkillers?
Read my thoughts above on voting with your shopping trolley, and the power of the gardener’s ‘green pound’. Then decide for yourself.
For more information on New Horizon and Gro-Sure Peat Free visit www.gardenhealth.com
More on going peat-free in your garden or allotment…
• For tips on peat-free sowing, potting and growing see How to Succeed in Your Garden With Modern, Reliable and Nature-friendly Peat-free Compost.
• See what other peat-free gardeners and commercial growers (yes, there are flourishing peat-free businesses out there) are up to, and share your own peat-free experiences by joining Twitter and tagging tweets from your balcony, garden or allotment with the hashtag ‘#peatfree’. Nature’s loving it.
• Check out my articles and posts about all things peat-free here.