Episode 103: houseplants and sustainability part one - peat-free

Sean Higgs of Floralive nursery with  Sarracenia flava  var.  cuprea . Photograph: Sean Higgs

Sean Higgs of Floralive nursery with Sarracenia flava var. cuprea. Photograph: Sean Higgs

Transcript

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Jane: Hello and welcome to On the Ledge podcast, the award-winning house plant podcast, hosted by me, Jane Perrone. If I come to your house, yes, I will be lifting up your pots and checking that everything is not root-bound or water logged, and yes I do want to identify your mystery plant. In this episode, I'm going to be tackling the topic of peat and answering a question about a wayward Anthurium.

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Jane: Thanks to Alex this week who left a review on the CastBox podcast app, which made me laugh. Apparently, I'm sincere and humble? I think you've been listening to the wrong podcast Alex. But Alex also said, "The show doesn't give that pumpkin spice latte/Instagram stereotype vibe at all." Oh, pumpkin spice latte, yuck. I'm much more of a nice cup of English breakfast tea, thank you very much. Thank you for leaving your review Alex, and I really do love reading all the reviews, mostly positive, occasionally negative, it's all great feedback, so thank you to everybody who has left a review for On the Ledge on your pod app of choice, and thank you also to Nicole who became a Legend this week by signing up to the $5 tier of my Patreon.

One of the great things about Patreon and the ads that I run on the show is they're enabling me to more things to get On The Ledge out to an ever wider and more diverse audience, and one of the things I'm working on right now is transcripts of the show. This is really important because accessibility is a real issue and I don't want anyone to feel like they can't get access to the show because it's not in a format that works for them, so very shortly transcripts of the show will be going up at www.JanePerrone.comfor every episode, starting from episode 100 and going on from there. If I can, I will get back date and get as many transcripts up for earlier episodes, but for the moment I'm aiming to get a transcript up for every new episode.

This will enable anyone who wants to look at exactly what I said to see the notes, and the transcript should help people who are hard of hearing or unable to listen to the show for any other reason to get access to the same information as everybody else, and I can only do this because of your support on Patreon, and also the support of advertisers who sponsor the show, so thanks to everyone who supports the show, whether that's just simply listening to the ads, or whether it's a donation made on Patreon. It all helps. And if you've got any other ideas on how to make the show more accessible, please let me know. I am always open to suggestions, is the best way of getting in touch.

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Jane: We're mixing things up this week by starting out with our question, which comes from Patsy. Patsy discovered the podcast last week and writes, "I binged so completely that I caught up last night." My goodness Patsy, you must be so sick of the sound of my voice. Anyway, she's been enjoying the show and she said that she found her first red spider mite-affected plant today after listening to the episode on them, so she knew what to do, and that is great news because I love that, when the podcast has a direct and immediate impact on how you're looking after your plants, that's what we like to hear!

Patsy's question concerns what she calls a 'monstrous Anthurium' that she's had for three years and it's been growing and flowering non-stop from the wonderful emporium that is Lidl. I don't know if you have this in America, I don't think you do but it's a UK supermarket that's also I think in other parts of Europe. Well, they do sell houseplants but in my experience, you've got to get in there the day that they arrive because they tend to go downhill pretty fast, but you can occasionally snag a bargain, they did have Fiddle Leaf Figs a while back.

So, onto Patsy's question, she's going to re-pot this Anthurium, but she wants to know what to do about the massive stems/aerial roots, which are almost a foot long and she says, "I'm sure that's meant to tell me something, I just don't know what. Is there something I can do about this, or is this just the way they grow?" Patsy, your Anthurium looks to be in pretty good shape. The thing to remember about Anthurium's is that these are epiphytic plants, which general anchor themselves to trees, and the young seedlings can actually exhibit what's called skototropism, which is moving away from light. Now that sounds counter intuitive but what these plants do is when they're young seedlings, they know somewhere in their DNA that they need to move towards a tree or some other anchorage to climb up towards the light. So the seedlings are skototropic, so they're moving towards something darker in the hope that it's a tree that they can then anchor themselves to, and this gives us a hint about the aerial roots. So, these plants will be anchoring themselves in tree bark, in clefts, in trees on the whole, and then growing up towards the light, therefore those aerial roots in their native environment are absolutely vital.

In its native home in South America, your classic Anthurium will definitely need those aerial roots, but does it need those aerial roots in your home in... well you don't actually say where you're from Patsy but anyway, I guess you have two options; do you cut those aerial roots off or do you leave them where they are and just re-pot with those aerial roots in place? The aerial roots are roots that are coming out of the stem, so if you can imagine the plants growing up a side of a tree trunk, obviously you see those aerial roots are going to go anchor the plant, but if your plant is just growing in a regular pot, those aerial roots are just going to start to splay out.

So, what can you do with them? Well, if you are a fan of misting, then misting those aerial roots can really help to keep the plant in good shape. Being from South America obviously it requires lots of air humidity, so that's one way it can take up air moisture, through using those aerial roots. If they're long enough to tuck them into the pot below, you can also do that because then they will go down into the soil and help to anchor the plant and also be drawing up nutrients and water as any root would do. It may also be worth considering giving this larger Anthurium some support of some kind or other because as you say, those stems are only going to get longer, so a system of a few canes or a little bit of trellis work, or a moss pole or two might just help to stop your Anthurium getting floppy as it gets larger Patsy.

I personally, I don't think you're going to kill the plant by cutting the aerial roots off, but I think it's probably better to leave them as they are. A lot of plants from South America that live in tropical rainforest canopy areas display this activity, philodendrons being another prime example, and I just tend to leave those roots on. The other thing to bear in mind is that if you ever want to take cuttings of the plant, then those sections with aerial roots attached can be detached and made into new plants. I mean the plant is happy, it's clearly happy as it is so don't mess with what's working well and keep those aerial roots intact. When a plant is doing what it does in its natural environment, then generally I put that down as a really good sign. When a plant is doing something that it doesn't do in its natural environment, like a cactus becoming etiolated and leggy, that is when you need to start worrying, so the fact that this plant's got aerial roots can only be a good sign Patsy. Patsy, let me know how your Anthurium does when you re-pot and if you've got a question for On the Ledge, please send me an email. .

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Jane: This week's show is the first part of an occasional series I'm going to be working on in the next year, all about sustainability and houseplants. This is a topic close to my heart and I hope it's close to yours too. Perhaps by the end of the series it will be if it isn't right now. Unless you've been living inside a bag of potting mix for the past few years, you can't have failed to notice that things on this planet of ours, well, if I can use classic English understatement here, they're a bit tricky. We've finally woken up to the fact that all that plastic we're churning out isn't going anywhere in our lifetime, or our kids lifetime, or their kids lifetime. You can't throw things away, because where's 'away' anyway? And climate change is very, very real, and very scary.

In our cosy houseplant community, it's easy to feel as though nothing we do as individuals can help, but there are things you can do make your houseplant habit more sustainable, and that's what we're going to be looking at in this series. We're going to be talking about things like plastic use through pots and fertilizer containers and all that kind of thing, about plant miles, where you source your plants from, and also about the growing media that we use. If you've got any other suggestions for sustainability topics we should tackle, please let me know.

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Jane: Today the topic we're going to be tackling is peat. Most of you probably know that peat is a major component of a lot of the potting mixes that houseplants are grown in, or that are sold in bags for you to use to re-pot your plants, but what is peat actually made from? It's basically decomposed moss, that comes from acidic wetlands, boggy environments, and it takes millions of years to form. National Geographic has called peat "the forgotten fossil fuel" because once you've extracted peat from a bog, you may be able to restore it to wetland status, but you're not going to be able to harvest any more peat for a long time.

Where is all the peat coming from? Well, if you're using peat in Europe, it's probably coming from bogs in Ireland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, a few other places, and in the US most of the peat comes from Canada. There is an argument that well, Canada's huge, and it's covered in peat bogs, so what's the problem? Well, my problem with peat is that it's not a renewable resource, it's not something we can simply make more of, and why should we use it when there are so many other raw materials, we can use to make our potting mixes which work just as well.

And there's even more reasons to love peat bogs as they are. These environments are home to an incredible array of different plants, including our much-loved carnivorous plants, and there's increasing evidence that peat bogs can do a lot to help us mitigate climate change. They're huge stores of carbon. They also help to purify water and can also mitigate flooding too, so let's love our peat bogs and find every way possible we can to avoid using peat in our houseplant compost mixes. And an increasing number of plant people around the world are carrying out amazing research and finding ways of kicking peat out of the world of plant production.

We're going to be talking to one of them today, Sean Higgs of Floralive Nursery here in the UK. He's been working on a peat free potting mix formulation for carnivorous plants for the past 30 years. But first, let's hear from this week's show sponsor.

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Jane: For me, the hardest thing about learning a new language as an adult is finding the time in my week to get out to a language learning class, and that's where Babbel comes in. Babbel is the language-learning app that gets you speaking a new language with confidence. You can choose from 14 different languages, including Spanish, French, and Polish, and Babbel is designed to get you speaking your new language with ease super quickly. The convenient lessons are just 10 to 15 minutes long, and you can do them anywhere. You'll learn through interactive dialogues and speech recognition technology so you can perfect your pronunciation and accent.

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Sean Higgs: So, my name's Sean Higgs, and I run a carnivorous plant nursery called Floralive in the UK and I've been growing carnivorous plants for just over 40 years, and 30 of those have been entirely peat free, and presently I believe we're the only nursery in the world that grows multiple genera of carnivorous plants totally peat free. There are other growers who are experimenting with peat free, some who have had some success, some who haven't, and there are nurseries in other parts of the world, for instance Sri Lanka, who grow specific genera in a type of peat free medium simply because they're unable to source peat in that area of the world, and at the moment it's a growing trend.

Jane: What was it 30 years ago that made you make that change? Because back then, peat really was an inverted comma's 'normal thing to do.'

Sean: It was, and I think fundamentally what prompted it from my point of view was, growing carnivorous plants as a young lad, I found it very, very hypocritical that in order to grow them successfully you had to fundamentally dig up the natural environment that they grew in, so it was somewhat counterproductive and it just created a spark in my head to be honest with you. And traveling around on various sort of trips and excursions, talking to people back then, I came across a farmer in a part of Wales where there's a very, very large bog which had been significantly drained in the 60's, and we were discussing that, and he was sort of saying, telling me about some of the differences that it made to the local environment etcetera, etcetera. This is back end of the 70's, something like that, early 80's, and it really struck a chord with me, and I didn't believe at that point in time that it should be necessary to dig up peat bogs, drain them and dig them up, in order to grow plants, but specifically carnivorous plants at that point in time, so I decided somebody needed to do something about it, so from that point onwards really I set about trying to find an alternative.

Jane: Well I think you're a bit of a visionary in this area by the sound of it because back then lots of other carnivorous plant growers in the carnivorous plant community were kind of giving you the side eye and wondering what on Earth you were going on about.

Sean: Yeah, it was quite low key to start with, obviously because there was a tremendous amount of research that had to be done and trialling and trying to source different materials to try the plants, you know obviously until there's a reasonable degree of success, you don't sort of go out and shout about that.

Jane: Of course.

Sean: Back then, although there was a certain amount of popularity with carnivorous plants, they hadn't reached the level of popularity that they have today for instance, and there wasn't an awful lot known about how to grow them. You hadn't got the variety of material available that there is today, and there was practically no literature whatsoever. The first time I had a Venus fly trap, there was no growing instructions with it, it was just a plant with a photographic poster, and it took two years of repeated attempts to try and grow one successfully. And so realistically, it wasn't until probably the mid to late 90's before I sort of revealed what I'd been up to and that I got something that worked to a degree, and there was interest, but only amongst the carnivorous plant community.

Jane: I would imagine that you don't want to give away your exact formulation because this is something that so much works gone into, but tell me more generally, what kind of qualities does a good carnivorous plant compost, is it to do with texture, is it to do, obviously it is to do with pH I would imagine, nutrients...

Sean: Yes, it can vary. I think collectively they're known as bog plants, which is true for the majority. So, a majority of them will grow in bogs and marshes, in different places around the world, but fundamentally, environments where the ground that they grow in is relatively free of nutrients, which is basically why they're evolved into carnivores, so that they can supplement their nutrition because there isn't any nutrition in the ground.

Boggy soils obviously retain an awful lot of water so anything that you're going to use to grow them in needs to have that as an attribute and needs to be relatively free, or totally free, of nutrients and things like that. So those are the two fundamentals and depending on which category of plants you're growing for instance, most of them sit in this sort of ok you can grow them in a pot, in a plant pot sitting in a saucer of water during the growing season and that's fine. Other ones, they're a little bit more tricky. Nepenthes for instance and the growing in Borneo and places like that in rainforest environments, then they prefer to be watered from above and they don't like their roots sitting in water. So to formulate something that is a coverall is extremely difficult, and when I first came up with something which I considered was probably going to be suitable, what I did was that I had several different formulations which were applicable to different genera's of plants that required slightly different watering conditions, and that's how it all started to be honest with you.

From there, once that was achieved, the objective became to try and simplify that because I think for people, the buying public, somebody out in a garden centre who wants to buy a carnivorous plant, or buy some carnivorous plant compost for instance, they want simplicity, they don't want to have to buy three or four different bags of different things to grow a range of plants. It's easier if they've got something that is a coverall if you like, and so that was the next sort of agenda and it took another 6 or 7 years to achieve that. What we have now in that product is something that can fundamentally be used for all carnivorous plants, provided you vary the way that you water it.

Jane: Just on the peat free issue, obviously lots of listeners are concerned about this topic and want to do the right thing. Obviously, if they're in the UK they can order your peat free carnivorous plant mix, which is wonderful. Is this movement going forwards in other countries? Are there other places in the world where people are doing similar work to you?

Sean: There are now, yes. Originally, obviously there weren't as it wasn't fully understood I don't think by society, that peat was an issue. Now, there are people in practically every country I think experimenting continually with peat free to achieve the same kind of thing that we've done and giving them an opportunity to grow these plants peat free. I think it's probably safe to say that realistically that it's exclusively people within the carnivorous plant community, so you know, hobbyists and people that have been growing them for a while. Then there are people in America, I know we spoke about American, there are people over there that they are trying to find ways to grow them peat free, but it's a very, very small percentage.

In the UK, there's a grower in Shropshire who grows Sarracenia predominantly, and he holds a national collection of Sarracenia, he has now developed a peat free mix that he uses for all his Sarracenia, and that works very well, and other people are having success with that as well, and you can buy the constituents to make that up, which come from, I think from writing saying, I think he uses a Melcourt base, a product that Melcourt do, and he mixes it with a couple of other constituents, and those kinds of things are freely available in the UK market.

But I think it's a trend now that there is more urgency amongst everybody to grow everything, not just carnivorous plants but everything peat free and it is vitally important that we do that. So obviously that spills over into carnivory and a lot of people are trying all sorts of different ways to find what works for them, and I think that's the key point. While some people have had success in their own environment the way they grow their plants, where they grow their plants, and how they grow their plants, it doesn't necessarily follow that that will work for everybody else because environments that people use are different so that's another tricky aspect of designing a growing media for instance, I think. But yeah, it's definitely a trend. It will become more visible as time goes on.

Jane: Without revealing your secrets, what are the possible raw materials for making a good peat free carnivorous plant compost? I imagine there are a lot of different options, are things like coir and garden waste that's been reconstituted? Are things like that some of the options that might be in the mix when somebody's putting together a possible potting mix for carnivorous plants?

Sean: Potentially. I think garden waste is a tricky one because it can vary considerably. There are so many different things that you could lump under that banner, that it's probably not advisable to sort of recommend people go down that route. This like coir, yes, there's been a reasonable amount of success with coir, but again, coir can vary, so the sources that coir come from, typically India and Sri Lanka, have vast stores of coir, which is waste product from the coconut industry, but a lot of those sit next to salt water lakes, so the substance itself leeches the salts and the salts will be fatal to carnivorous plants. So some coir you can buy is completely free of salt, and people have used that to some good effect at times, but again it's very much a trail and error situation. Other people would tell you never touch coir with a barge pole, so it's very subjective really. Barks, again, there are all sorts of different barks you can buy, and some people have used bark with success, and as I said saying, Mike King the chap in Shropshire who grows the Sarracenia's, he uses a bark from Melcourt, and he swears he's been trialling that for 5, 6, 7 years, something like that, and he has a national collection of thousands probably six, seven thousand plants something like that potted in a mix that is based on a Melcourt bark. That Melcourt bark that he uses, typically it's an acid medium, with very, very low nutrients, no fertilizers or anything like that added to it, so it's fundamentally inert, and once you've got that, it's a question of making sure that the porosity of the material is ok, that the water uptake is good enough, and that the air, the roots for the plants then have enough air to grow into, again it's trial and error, and I think as time goes by we will see a lot more variations on that kind of theme, where one person is using it with this constituent, somebody else is using it with a different constituent to slightly different formulation, and everybody will say mine works, mine works, mine works. There's really some experimentation that can be done, but I wouldn't recommend that anybody does it unless they have a lot of spare plants to try with because if you've got one prize plant and you stick in something and it doesn't work, you're not going to be very happy.

Jane: I mean you've done all the hard work right? I think I'd much rather just buy your stuff and know that it's going to work after 30 years of trying then trying to formulate my own, but I know there are people out there that want do this all this stuff on their own so it's interesting to experiment, but I think probably for me personally I shall just be ordering some of your compost.

Sean: This is the thing. It's important that people have a choice, and obviously our product is there, and the research is behind it, and the trials, and it's been on the market now since 1998, and thousands of people have used it, so it works, and that works for a lot of people because it's a very simple solution. It's a convenience product that people can buy and use out of the bag. Other people would see it as an expensive solution and it depends how you compare it because if you compare against a bag of, I don't know, you can buy peat based carnivorous plant compost in the garden centre for instance, and if you compare our product to that, there's no difference in price whatsoever. But if you compare it to somebody who buys a big bag of moss peat and a big bag of perlite and a big bag of sand that mixes their own at home, then ours is very, very expensive, but equally, so is the peat-based mix. So, our product suits some people, but not everybody, and that fine for the people the people that are looking for that convenience, it's there and it's available, but there are obviously other ways of doing it, however, we won't endorse using peat in any way, shape, or form. Not just for carnivorous plants, but for any plants at all, there is absolutely no need to use peat nowadays.

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Jane: I hope you found that useful and inspirational. Thanks Sean. And if you're in the UK and want to get your hands on some of Sean's special carnivorous plant potting mix, which goes under the name Thrive, Sean's been kind enough to offer a discount code. If you enter ON THE LEDGE in capitals when you check out, then you'll get a 20% discount on your final total, not including shipping. And orders over 45 pounds automatically qualify for free shipping anyway. The code's valid from today until the 31^st^of July so you've got plenty of time to get your orders in. You'll find the Floralive website at www.floralive.co.uk, and Sean's on Twitter @floraliveUK. If you've missed any of that information, do go over to the website www.janeperrone.comwhere you can find all the links for Sean, and loads of background information on the peat free movement, the importance of peat bogs, and so on.

If you've been inspired, you're probably wondering what you can do where you live to try and break your dependent on peat in the garden and in your indoor gardening life. Well, the first thing I'd say is always read the packet when you go to buy potting mix. All UK potting mixes should have somewhere stated on the packing material how much peat is contained in them. It's not always easy to find but it should be there and if it's not there, ask the manufacturers for the information. These companies need to start giving out information about peat and putting pressure on these companies by making them aware that this is something that we as consumers care about is a great step forward. If you're in the UK there are an increasing range of suppliers of peat free potting mixes. Surprisingly, as far as I know, apart from Floralive's carnivorous plant mix, there aren't any general houseplants potting mixes that are peat free. I do know that one of the companies who do offer peat free is working on one, which is exciting, but I found that if you find any peat free multipurpose and add, depending on the kind of plant you're growing, either some finely milled bark or some perlite or some vermiculite, either to improve drainage or improve water retention, then usually you can come up with a good mix for any houseplant without having to resort to peat. I've often recommended using John Innes number 2 in the past, this does contain peat, but if you're in the UK and you can get a hold of it, there's a wonderful product by the company Melcourt that Sean Higgs was talking about called Silvergrow All-Purpose Peat Free with added John Innes, and this is what I'm experimenting with at the moment for my houseplants. Other options in the UK include Fertile Fibre, which is based on coconut fibre - or coir - Lakeland Gold from Dalefoot, which is made from bracken and sheep's wool, and is absolutely amazing, I would highly recommend that if you can get your hands on it. If you can't find any peat free compost at your local garden centre, then do speak to the staff and request that this is added onto their offering. It's only by us customers coming forward and asking for what we want that we're going to get progress on this, and I have heard anecdotally that lots of garden centres say well we don't stock it because nobody asked for it, so come on people, step up and ask for peat free.

And I would love to know what you think about this topic. Whether you're already using peat free or struggling to find peat free compost for your house plants where you live, do let me know and I will try to put together a blog post on peat free resources for my website, so please do let me know that information, and I can feed it into that piece.

Before I go, this isn't peat related whatsoever but I did talk to Sean Higgs about a carnivorous plant that I don't think has ever come up in an episode of On the Ledge, and I was curious about it and I knew you would be too, so here's a little segment of chat with Sean about Utr-, I can't even say it, bladderwort, let's call it bladderwort. Maybe I'll try again; Utricularia, which is a genus of carnivorous plants that works in very mysterious ways. Here's Sean talking about the way this plant operates and why it actually makes a really nice houseplant.

Sean: Well they don't have roots, for a start. So they have on the surface of the growing medium, or above the surface, they will have typically very small leaves, sometimes grass-like, and they're very inconspicuous until they flower, and I think it's probably fair to say that the majority of people that grow them grow them because a lot of them have these really, really vivid orchid-like flowers, and they're really, really pretty. Some of them look very, very tiny, but others aren't. But the trapping mechanism is underground. Some of them grow in water and some of them will grow in saturated soils, and the trapping mechanism is basically a very, very tiny, small trap. I mean the largest one that you could find would be, I don't know, half a centimetre, something like that. Typically, much, much smaller than that, and even if you could see them, if you turn a pot full out, you can see these little bladders all over the compost, but you wouldn't be able to see the trapping operation because they move faster than the human eye can detect. And it's based on a vacuum, there's a vacuum inside each trap, and on the perimeter of each trap are some trigger hairs and when a little insect or protozoa or a daphnia or something of that nature swims past and touches the triggers, it releases the vacuum and the prey gets sucked inside the bladder, which then gradually reforms the vacuum and in doing so the prey dies and it absorbs the resulting nutriment.

Jane: They're clever things, aren't they? I really continue to have my mind blown by carnivorous plants; they're just [laughs].

Sean: Basically, bladderworts are very, very easy to grow in a light windowsill or something like that, or in a greenhouse, and the flowers on most of them are really worth seeing, even if they're only small ones. You get such an array of flowers that come up during the summertime. They're pretty, I think is the best word. It's a pretty little display.

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Jane: That's all for On the Ledge this week, I'll be back next Friday. And remember, sometimes, people are like bladderworts; it's all going on under the surface. Take care, bye!

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Jane: The music you heard in this episode was: Roll, Jordan Rollby The Joy Drops,

Words Fall Apartby Josh Woodward, An Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day, Gokarnaby Samuel Corwin, Plantationby Jason Shaw. All licenced under Creative Commons. And the ad music was: Whistling Rufusby Heftone Banjo Orchestra. All licenced under curated commons, see www.janeperrone.comfor details.

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We’re all in no doubt that our houseplants are good for us, but are they good for the environment? This is an issue that’s been nagging away at me for some time now. This episode is the start of an occasional series looking at houseplants and sustainability: I’m starting by looking at peat use. And I answer a question about the aerial roots on a monster Anthurium.

An introduction to houseplants and sustainability

Unless you’ve been living inside a bag of potting mix for the past few years, you can’t have failed to notice that things on this planet of ours are well, if I can use classic English understatement here, tricky. 

We’ve finally woken up to the fact that all the plastic we’re churning out isn’t going anywhere in our lifetime, or our kids’ lifetime, or their kids’ lifetime. You can’t throw things “away” because where’s “away” anyway? And climate change is very very real, and very scary. 

In our cosy little houseplant community, it’s easy to feel as if nothing we do as individuals can help: but there are things you can do to make your houseplant habit more sustainable. In the next few months, every so often I’m going to focus an episode on an aspect of houseplants and sustainability, including plastic, fertilisers, plant miles and peat, which is where I am starting today. If you have suggestions for other topics to cover, do let me know.

Peat notes

Most of you probably know that peat is a major component of a lot of potting mixes that houseplants are grown in, or are sold for you to repot your plants. 

Sarracenia  ‘Juthatip Soper’. Photograph: Sean Higgs.

Sarracenia ‘Juthatip Soper’. Photograph: Sean Higgs.

But what actually is peat made from? It’s basically decomposed moss, that is harvested from bogs: acidic wetlands, and takes millions of years to form: National Geographic has called it “the forgotten fossil fuel”, because once peat has been extracted from a bog, you may be able to restore it as a wetland, you’re not going to be able to harvest any more peat for a loooong time. 

If you’re using peat in Europe, it’s probably coming from bogs in Ireland, Germany, Finland, Sweden and a few other places. In North America, most peat is sourced from Canada. There’s an argument - aired on this very podcast - that peat is so abundant in Canada that it’s not an issue we need to be concerned with. But for me, it doesn’t sit right to be using a non-renewable resource to help green up my home. So it’s time to look for alternatives. The UK government certainly agrees: there’s a plan to phase out peat use by amateur gardeners by next year, 2020, (although everyone agrees this isn’t going to happen) and professional growers by 2030.

There are lots of growers around the world making great strides when it comes to finding materials that are comparable to peat’s desirable qualities as a potting medium: I talk to one of them in this episode.

Sean Higgs of Floralive Carnivorous Plant Nursery in the UK has been formulating a peat-free potting mix for CPs for the past 30 years. I discuss why and how he decided to take on this tricky task, and where the CP community stands on peat right now. You can also find Sean on Twitter as @Floraliveuk.

If you are in the UK and want to give Floralive’s peat-free potting mix for CPs a go, you can use the code ON-THE-LEDGE to get a 20% discount on your order, excluding shipping costs.

A  Sarracenia leucophylla  hybrid. Photograph: Sean Higgs.

A Sarracenia leucophylla hybrid. Photograph: Sean Higgs.

Peat-free resources

I hope this week’s show makes you think again about peat use: if nothing else, please do start checking the packaging when buying potting mixes, and complaining loudly when companies fail to indicate clearly how much peat is in their products. Here’s some more useful information:

Question of the week

Patsy wanted to know what to do about the long stems and aerial roots on her Anthurium. I argue that although she probably won’t kill the plant by cutting them off, it’s better to leave them be - tuck them into the pot if possible, and mist them to increase humidity around the plant.

Want to ask me a question? Tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

If you are in the Glasgow area, listener Steve tee is planning a meetup! Join the Facebook group or contact me to get involved.

There’s a London Plant Crawl happening on July 28 - details here.

Join me at Lullingstone Castle in Kent in the UK on September 21 and 22 2019 for Cactusworld Live where I’ll be doing a live recording of On The Ledge and holding a listener meetup.

The following weekend I’ll be at the Garden Museum on Sunday September 29 for their Houseplant Festival: I’ll be helping out with the houseplant clinic, and there’s also the chance to take part in workshops and browse an awesome range of stalls from some of my favourite houseplant shops!


THIS WEEK’S SPONSOR - BABBEL

Babbel is the language learning app that will get you speaking a new language with confidence. You can try Babbel for free by going Babbel.com or download the app and try it for free!


LOVE THE SHOW? HERE’S HOW TO SUPPORT ON THE LEDGE …

If you have the third of a price of a cup of takeaway coffee to spare once a month, you can support On The Ledge financially. Every patron now has the chance to download an exclusive artwork by listener Nathaniel Oles, as a reward for reaching my goal of 100 patrons.

Just $1 a month helps to pay for all the things that have made the show possible over the last two years: equipment, travel expenses, editing, not to mention my time! For $5 a month, you get access to two extra episodes a month, known as An Extra Leaf.

I’ve recently added a new $10 tier, which gives you membership of the On The Ledge listener advisory board, a new group helping to decide the future direction of the show: you’ll also receive a personal greeting from me in the mail including a limited edition postcard. You can see all the tiers and sign up for Patreon here.

If you like the idea of supporting On The Ledge on a regular basis but don't know what Patreon's all about, check out the FAQ here: if you still have questions, leave a comment or email me - ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com. If you're already supporting others via Patreon, just click here to set up your rewards!

For those who prefer to make a one-off donation, you can still buy me a coffee! A donation of just £3 helps keep On The Ledge going: helping to pay for me to travel to interviews, and for expenses like website hosting and audio equipment. Don't forget to join the Facebook page for news of what's coming up on the show and bonus blogposts!

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CREDITS

This week's show featured the tracks Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, Plantation by Jason Shaw,  An Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day Gorkana by Samuel Corwin and Words Fall Apart by Josh Woodward. Ad music is by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra with Whistling Rufus. All tracks licensed under Creative Commons.

Logo design by Jacqueline Colley.