15 January 2012: A Holy Grail for gardeners and environmentalists is to identify a sustainable and horticulturally effective alternative to peat.
Carbon Gold has achieved this with their GroChar range of Soil Association approved, biochar-based Seed and All-Purpose composts.
Natural peat is essentially a mixture of lignin and carbon formed over thousands of years. Its high carbon content is an important factor in its horticultural effectiveness.
GroChar All-Purpose and Seed Composts from Carbon Gold are sustainable and horticulturally credible alternatives to peat. Mixing coir, a lignin rich natural by-product from coconuts, with biochar, which is 70-90% carbon, Carbon Gold has created effective composts that do not depend on the unsustainable harvesting of peat – a non-renewable and precious resource.
Biochar is a modern take on a tradition that is thousands of years old and inspired by the Pre-Columbian Amazonian Indians. They used charred plant matter to enrich their poor, infertile jungle soil. This ‘Terra Preta’ or ‘dark earth’ remains highly fertile two thousand years after it was formed. Modern biochar is produced by a clean technology known as pyrolysis and made from woody biomass, largely unwanted by-products from forestry, the timber trade and agriculture.
The ‘peatless peat’ in Carbon Gold’s All-Purpose Compost and Seed Compost is mixed with mycorrhizal fungi, wormcast, seaweed and vegetable-based nutrient blends.
The composts have been proven to help grow stronger, healthier flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables. Using them also helps gardeners reduce their carbon footprint.
Carbon Gold founder, Craig Sams, is keen to differentiate between his environmentally sustainable GroChar composts and the mass of ‘peat free’ and ‘peat reduced’ composts now on the market which, in his view, only serve to confuse consumers.
Craig, a former chair of the Soil Association and co-founder Green & Black’s chocolate in 1991, explains: “We do not want the garden centre buyers to regard Carbon Gold as ‘another peat-free outfit’. We have moved the whole debate about peat forward to a considerably higher level. Government and increasingly consumers want to reduce the use of peat and we are the only UK company to have a horticulturally proven technology to achieve this. We are not just peat-free or even peat reduced, we are ‘peatless peat’. There is a very significant difference.”
The company has set up comparative growing trials which demonstrate that the two GroChar composts perform as well as, if not better, than conventional peat-based alternatives.
After founding Green & Blacks Craig quickly established the company as a core supporter of the Fairtrade movement. This encouraged consumers to recognise that their purchasing decisions have a direct impact down the line, right back to the farmers in the developing world who actually grow the cocoa.
Craig believes GroChar will produce a similar effect for gardeners and eventually the garden trade. They will encourage individuals to rethink their environmental position on using peat. Earlier this year he received the PEA Award for the Green Entrepreneur of the Year for his work on biochar.