Caption: Bolton Fell Moss NNR
Caption: Borrowed Cumbrian peatland - under special license from Natural England
Caption: Vegetable garden produced by Pennard Plants, grown in Dalefoot
Caption: Bevis Hughes (Eden Project), Simon Bland (co-founder Dalefoot Composts) and Tracey Smith (Eden Project) with the gold award
Curlews, lapwing, the hum of billions of insects…. and the occasional squelch – the sounds of a peatland captured and being heard over a little piece of Cumbrian peatland, on loan from Natural England, and installed in the Discovery Zone at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
We are highlighting to gardeners the critical importance of UK peatlands to our climate in a unique, joint exhibit with the Eden Project at RHS Chelsea Flower Show – and it has just won a gold medal!
Under special license from Natural England, we are putting on show a slice of bog ‘borrowed’ from peatland previously harvested for horticulture 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 are being invited ‘to step into’ the borrowed slice of National Nature Reserve (NNR) peatland from Bolton Fell Moss, a restored Cumbrian bog, to experience the secrets, sounds and beauty of these enormous bog gardens. We are giving the peatland display expert care whilst at the show to make sure it remains hydrated and will return it to its natural home once Chelsea has finished.
Alongside, a bountiful potager of vegetables and companion planting grown by gold-medal-winning Pennard Plants, we illustrate what gardeners can achieve in their own plot by switching to peat-free gardening. All of these plants have been grown in our 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.
We are a major manufacturer of peat-free compost and a leading restorer of damaged peatlands, including the NNR site in Cumbria. Professor Jane Barker, our co-founder, said : “Up until now, the scientific understanding underpinning individual gardeners’ responsibility to climate change gardening has not been well communicated. We 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 illustrated in the RHS Chelsea exhibit shows the thousands of years peat represents. Peat grows at only 1mm per year and this is 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 our latest initiative with 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 we have plans to work together on other future initiatives.
Dalefoot are supporting six show gardens and exhibits at RHS Chelsea with our 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 our 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.
Find us at Stand GPA 105 in the Discovery Zone of the Great Pavilion and at Stand AR 545 for Dalefoot Composts
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.