DIY peat-free growing media

Event Date : February 23, 2022

Event Time : 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Organic Growers Alliance webinar on how to create your own peat-free growing media for plant-raising.

As growers we need to move away from using peat for propagation, but buying in can be expensive and not always as reliable as it should be. An alternative is to make up our own mixes using ‘recipes.’ But what to include? This webinar will discuss the materials that can be used in DIY mixes, and the responsible sourcing of materials together with the nutrients needed and any additional feeding requirements. We will hear from Tolly (Iain Tolhurst) who has been successfully using his own composted woodchip in plant propagation for a number of years and results from independent trials at Ryton (by CAWR as part of Organic-PLUS).


Iain Tolhurst (Tolly) of Tolhurst Organic has been growing organically since 1976 and is one of the country’s most highly respected organic growers and advisers. He grows 17 acres of field vegetables in addition to a 2 acre walled garden, supplying their own box scheme, farmers markets and veg shed. They raise around 80,000 transplants a year with 50,000 as peg plants and 30,000 as modules and pots using their own growing media developed with their own composted woodchip. Tolly will talk about their experiences of developing their own growing media mixes and what works for them. See report: Peat-free woodchip for growing media field lab

Judith Conroy of CAWR is Project Manager of Organic-PLUS, an EU Horizon 2020 project comprising 25 partner institutions, investigating alternatives to contentious inputs in organic agriculture across Europe.

Dr Margi Lennartsson is Associate Professor of Horticulture at CAWR. She worked for 30 years at Garden Organic (HDRA) leading their research, development and outreach activities. Now at CAWR she is involved in projects investigating alternatives to peat in horticultural growing media and options for phasing-out the use of peat in horticulture.

Dr Francis Rayns Assistant Professor at CAWR is a soil scientist with an interest in the utilisation of waste materials in the form of soil amendments such as compost, anaerobic digestate and biochar for field applications and in growing media.

Judith, Margi and Francis will cover:

  • Their trials at Ryton using Tolly’s composted woodchip (using differing amounts of vermiculite and extruded wood).
  • Materials that could be used in DIY mixes
  • The Responsible Sourcing Calculator – although devised for manufactured mixes, a lot of the same principles apply and some of the materials may be brought in as ingredients of a homemade mix
  • Nutrients/additional feeding of containerised plants/vegetable transplants


This webinar is a partnership between the CSA Network UK, the Seed Sovereignty Programme run by the Gaia Foundation, the Landworkers’ Alliance, and the Organic Growers Alliance and forms part of a webinar series funded by Farming the Future.

The webinar programme focuses on practical teaching and farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchanges from farmers and growers from around the UK. The series is designed to increase knowledge exchange and learning on both the politics and practice of agroecology, seed sovereignty and food sovereignty.

If you would like to be involved in running a webinar, a theme or practice you would would like to know more about, or have a specific topic you would like to present on please get in touch with us at


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