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The age of compost

In the June issue of Which? Gardening, there is a story about: Is old compost sabotaging your plants? This refers to garden retailers stocking old bags of compost and whether the bags should be stamped with a 'sell-by', 'use-by' or 'production' dates.
This is an old chestnut. I remember this being suggested when I managed garden centres back in the 80s. One of the concerns by the industry is that putting dates on compost will lead to large volumes remaining unsold and the subsequent increase in cost that this will bring. So your compost will cost you more.
Obviously, using old compost is not a good idea - mainly because the degradation in the nutrients can lead to problems with the plants.
Whenever I buy compost, I always check the bags first. I'm looking for clean bags with fresh printing that hasn't faded. I also have a fair idea whether the bag is showing the current year's images and graphics or whether it is the previous year's - or older. Garden retailers will often put the oldest bags on the top of the stack to ensure these are the ones bought first. I've sometimes been known to completely destroy a stack to get at the newer bags lower down!
What do you think?

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