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Organic gardener Bob Flowerdew infuriates environmentalists

9 January 2012
Organic gardener Bob Flowerdew infuriates environmentalists

“I demand the right to use a modicum of peat!”

Green groups have lashed out after one of Britain’s most influential organic gardeners demanded the right to use peat in his garden.
Writing in Amateur Gardening magazine, Bob Flowerdew, the BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist, broke the ultimate organic taboo: he confessed to using a small amount of peat in loam-based sowing compost.
Anticipating a backlash, Bob joked that his actions would be considered “much worse” than fox hunting, owing a patio heater or being a banker!
But on a serious note, Bob argued that peat was a renewable resource and suggested: “Why not let us have a licensing regime for peat sourced from managed and sustainable sites, like FSC certification for sustainably-sourced hardwood timber?”
Environmentalists were quick to hit back. Regional campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Helen Rimmer, said: “We are disappointed that Bob Flowerdew has used his magazine column to promote peat when, as an organic grower, he should be promoting peat-free alternatives. It’s going in the opposite direction.
“We face an urgent climate change crisis and peat bogs are vital carbon sinks, as well as being home to thousands of insects and birds. There is very little lowland bog left, so it’s vital we protect what remains.
“The last thing we need is an influential organic gardener calling for the use of peat when peat-alternatives are now just as good. There is no valid argument for using peat in the garden.”
Charity Garden Organic disagreed with Bob, too. Chief executive Myles Bremner said: “How Bob gardens is his choice, but as the UK’s leading organic organisation we don’t believe there’s any need or justification for using peat.
“Minimising peat use to virtually nothing is what we want more people to do. However, the fact remains that if every gardener took Bob’s approach to peat, then the nation would still be using more than mere handfuls of it, which isn’t sustainable.”
But AG editor Tim Rumball stuck up for Bob. Tim said: “Any common sense debate about peat has become swamped by hysterical invective from environmentalists and opportunistic politicians who deliberately fail to look at the bigger picture.
“Everyday activities like driving a car, switching on a light or using a cooker are seriously more damaging than using small amounts of peat to grow plants. No gardener wants to harm the environment – growing plants is a creative and environmentally beneficial pastime.”
The government wants to ban peat use by amateur gardeners by 2020.
But in spring Alan Titchmarsh, also an organic gardener, admitted he still used a small amount of peat.