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Compost Awareness

International Compost Awareness Week 2014 finishes on May 11th and it got me thinking. I'm sure the GreenPlantSwap growers have their own favourite compost for seed sowing or growing on, or make their own and have a great recipe or have some sort of super tips to get the best from their composts.

So, GPS growers, come on share your compost - not composting - tips and let's all benefit from your successes.

Comments (3)

  1. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Given the urgent need to halt the use of peat (all but 6% of lowland peat bogs have been extracted in just a few decades by brands serving the garden market), I thought I'd take a look at how commercial peat-free alternatives fared in the latest Which? 2014 report.

    I was somewhat disappointed. Not one made it into the Best Buy lists for seeds/young plants and container plants. Carbon Gold ProChar Seed Compost, which is Soil Association approved, actually made onto their 'Don't Buy' list. At 62p a litre, it was one of the most expensive by volume in the trial, and the Antirrhinums, Chillis and Petunias in their test struggled to grow and were pale and unhealthy looking.

    Best of the peat-free products, which Which? described as 'nearly a good enough all-rounder to be a Best Buy', was Vital Earth Tub and Basket Compost. At just 10p a litre, it was almost the cheapest in the trial, and put on a good show of potatoes and begonias. It is described as being composted green waste with a 'natural wetting agent and feed'. For lime-hating plants Vital Earth also have an Organic Peat Free Ericaceous Compost.

    I think one of the big challenges with compost, is knowing what particular plants will thrive best on. Monty Don is an advocate of making your own from garden compost, vermiculite, leaf mould, coir, loam and grit. Or you can add these to a peat-free commercial product to adjust to your plants' needs. For this, I think better knowledge is needed of the recipes that suit particular plants. For example, leaf mould is a much more suitable growing medium - like the original habitat - than peat for woodland natives like Trilliums, Campanula (Bell flowers) and Endymion (Bluebells).

    Where Growers have a good peat-free recipe for specific plants, do share it as Tip with a tag link to the plant, as this will get deposited on the plant record for others to use.

  2. Grower

    Stafford Lake Nursery

    As a grower, and a keen conservationist, I have to admit that peat is still the medium of choice here for general growing. It is the easiest substrate to give a uniform compost, and that is important when you need to produce a uniform product. I sometimes use coir as a rooting medium, and it works quite well, but apparently the trick with coir is getting it properly milled to the right consistency. Another problem with peat free compost is that it tends to need higher doses of the ingredients that are often incorporated into professional composts, things like slow release fertilizers and insecticides, thus increasing the cost and the harm that production and release of chemicals causes. What I will say though is that peat is a rubbish soil conditioner, disappears very quickly in the ground. We are surrounded by oak trees here, and generate mountains of oak leaves in the autumn, which together with various soft prunings and grass clippings from around the place rot into an excellent compost for incorporating into the open ground areas, we have done so for years and really improved the structure of the heavy clay soils we have to work with.

  3. Grower

    Geoff Hodge

    The whole peat debate issue is a massive one, with both sides giving good evidence for its continued use or not.
    But the government has decided its use in horticulture will be phased out, so what can you do? Personally, I like peat as a constituent of potting composts. However, it is rubbish as a soil improver and shouldn't be used for this purpose.


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