While many gardeners regard the partially decomposed plant matter as an elixir, environmentalists say taking peat from centuries-old bogs disturbs vital ecosystems.
Bogs are also a precious natural habitat in Britain, favored by hikers and some threatened birds. Many British bogs are seriously degraded because they have been drained to take out gardening material or to make way for development. And because even a healthy bog adds less than half an inch in a century, they are not renewable from a practical standpoint. While gardening companies refer to “harvesting” peat, with the implication that it will return next year, environmental opponents refer to the process as “mining.”