Updated: 14th October 2022
This year the Boningale Group is dramatically extending trials with peat-free growing media, with a goal to have all our retail production using completely peat-free media from 2024. Peatlands are a valuable resource for wildlife, carbon capture and water management, and the reduction of peat use in horticulture is part of Boningale’s commitment to be environmentally responsible.
Reduction of peat has been one of our environmental KPIs for ISO14001 for over a decade, and we have made steady progress in the reduction of peat as a percentage of our growing media during that time.
During the same period we have been expanding our in-house production to reduce reliance on imports (and therefore reducing risks of importing pests and diseases in line with our Plant Health Management Scheme).
We have decided to dramatically accelerate our plans to reach ‘zero peat’ in our own production as soon as is reasonably possible without sacrificing quality, rather than continuing with incremental yearly reductions. This initially is focused on our retail production as this currently uses a higher proportion of peat, and meets a stronger customer demand for peat-free products.
A recent workshop our staff attended highlighted a number of factors that will be invaluable in the adoption of peat-free growing media:
Across the business we have been trialling three different peat-free mixes in addition to our regular peat-free propagation mix to ensure we get the best performance. In May we potted up 10% of our scheduled liners into two different peat-free mixes to see how they performed. These were ‘off the shelf’ mixes from different suppliers.
So far we have very promising progress. We set aside a separate bay to allow for particular watering treatments, but the plants have done very well so far on a standard husbandry and watering regime. A few varieties that have performed well include Osteospermum ‘Tresco Purple’, Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ and Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’.
Anthemis ‘Orange Dream’, Thalictrum ‘Splendide White’, Lobelia tupa were placed in a looser, lighter mix which did not require any mechanical process to break down before use, which suits our current facility at the Worfield site.
Our commercial propagation unit at our head office in Albrighton has been using peat-free media for propagation successfully for over 10 years led by our Propagation and HSEQ Manager Nerys Arch. At our retail production site Worfield, we will continue to phase out the use of peat-based propagation media.
The liners and final products are currently handled differently across our commercial and retail growing sites. We often buy young plants and liners in from other specialist growers, and approximately half of these supplying our retail lines are already growing peat-free – we will be talking to the others to help them on the journey.
In 2023 we will be building on our knowledge from the trials this year, and increasing the proportion of our stock grown in completely peat-free compost, to enable our transition to peat-free retail production in 2024. This does not mean we will be able to label all those products as ‘peat-free’, as they may still include peat from the earlier production stages.
Although our commercial production is starting from a lower proportion of peat usage we still have a lot of work to do to transition to completely peat-free production. With the range of expertise and growing facilities across all our sites we will share knowledge and results to ensure we can maintain product quality.
We recognise that ‘zero peat’ is a challenging goal and will be publishing regular updates on our progress.