Growing peat free

The Forum’s recent response to the Scottish Governments consultation on the banning of the sale of peat highlighted a few key issues:

Many groups know the environmental impacts of peat use as a growing substrate and its pros and cons. However, many of us still associate peat with soil and are unaware of how it differs from the soil, its specific role in the horticultural industry and the enormous environmental impact of its continued extraction.

In some growing settings, the essential role of soil is integrated with an organised composting system. Growers use ‘homemade’ compost for much of their growing production and restrict the purchase of sterilised ‘weed-free’ growing substrate [peat or peat-free seed compost] for specific seeds. In other settings, bagged compost, peat or otherwise, is still widely used. In our experience across Scotland, peat use is mixed, and those still using peat mainly do so because of a lack of knowledge and confidence about the soil, decent peat-free alternatives and affordability. Switching to peat free may not resonate if addressing climate change is not seen as being in our control.

So, what can we do about it at a community level? Well, lots! For those of us growing local, irrespective of scale, we can protect and rebuild our soils, compost as much garden waste as possible, and try growing and sharing techniques for growing peat free with others.

If you’d like to know more about peat, read Garden Organics For Peat’s Sake campaign; for more about Soil, see our Grow pages, and if you’d like to start, upscale or shout about your peat-free growing to others, please get in touch with us!


Nature wins

Imagine a more biodiverse, greener Scotland for people and the planet. It is possible, and many community food growing sites across Scotland are leading the way in growing with and celebrating nature and climate every day, as recognised by Shettleston Community Gardens’ nomination for the RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards next week.
The Forum’s recent response to the Scottish Government consultation on Biodiversity highlighted the importance of recognising the stewardship role that Shettleston and thousands of other growing sites across Scotland play in creating and supporting local connections with biodiverse, beautiful and nature-abundant spaces in our communities. Local, informal opportunities to connect and grow food with nature on our doorstep can grow micro but profound collective steps for a biodiverse future. So, go Shettleston and all the gardens you represent- we are rooting for you!
Unsure where to get started read the Forum top tips for growing with climate and nature whatever your setting.


Water, water…..not so much water

We’ve had a prolonged dryspell across much of the Highlands and Central belt recently. How are you coping in your setting as we can begin to safely, sow together? These dry springs are becoming a more frequent and one we need to be prepared for. Too much water, too little water- when starting out it can require some effort to have water where you want it and when you want it but this is infrastructure that requires a little thought and planning. Whatever the weather anything that is not ‘mains water’ makes good sense both environmentally and for the purse.

One thing you need to bear in mind with water collection systems is the risk of the legionella bacteria- a water borne virus that can occur in standing water reaching temperatures of 20C or more. Guidance states – ideally siting the water receptacle out of the sun, the need for annual cleaning of your water receptacle, use of a watering can for emptying the container rather than something that creates spray/water droplets.

If you have access to mains water and you are a registered charity with an annual income of less than £300,000 you may be entitled to water rates exemption. You need to apply annually before the 31st march.

Send us your water solutions- photos, top tips and questions to share with others to