My gardening mentor trained in private service in days of yore.
He spoke of head gardeners who grew potted plants year-round for the ‘big house,’ whose growing mixtures were carefully-guarded secrets.
When a series of universal composts were launched by the John Innes Research Institute over 50 years ago it revolutionised that branch of gardening.
Generations of students, this fellow included, needed to memorise the formulae for seed and potting mixes, and peat was a main component of each. With hindsight it was predictable that lightweight, clean-to-handle, readily available peat would suffer when bagged composts increased in popularity.
Given the finite nature of this natural substance, we clearly cannot continue to raid peat bogs, and in the process destroy the habitats of flora and fauna species which have adapted to them. This big compost problem has to be resolved quickly because time is running out.
Our ever-changing gardening world has been forced to clean up its act gradually over the years but more-so over the past decade - more stringent and costly tests for those who manufacture pesticides springs to mind.
The next challenge is to phase out the use of peat by home gardeners before the end of this decade.
2020 is the deadline set for amateur gardeners to stop using it. Those in the trade have until 2030. A sad state of affairs you might think, but we are a resilient lot. If the research units cannot produce a true replacement before the deadline, we’ll just have to recycle more green material and arrive at that beautifully decayed, sweet-smelling compost which is the preferred medium for my seed sowing and potting activities.