Compost differences
Eyren Offline
Hardy perennial
#1
Last year I bought some expensive compost that had been recommended by the likes of Charles Dowding, but which (last year at least) turned out to be less than ideal quality - Charles said as much on a recent video, and said he had been in touch with the manufacturers about the drop in quality. This was Moorland Gold, which is made from reclaimed peat fragments taken from reservoirs - it was a lovely fine texture that seemed ideal for propagation, and who could resist environmentally friendly peat? 

However everything I sowed in it last summer failed, and just to prove a point, when I tried it again this year (because I'd run low on seed compost) the results were less than impressive:

   

   

These are different seeds from different suppliers (beetroot, calendula - some home-saved - and alyssum), but only about half of all the modules had any germination Sad

Contrast this with the broad beans I sowed in Dalefoot Seed Compost:

   

Around 90-95% germination rate. I rest my case!
How much veg and wildlife can I pack into a 6m x 8m garden in suburban Cambridge? Let’s find out!  Smile
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Veggie Offline
Super Pest Controller
#2
Could you try the first batch of seeds in the Dalefoot and Broad beans in the Moorland Gold to do a proper comparison?
Wonky Shopkeeper in Sunshiny South Wales
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Eyren Offline
Hardy perennial
#3
(14-03-2021, 11:00 PM)Veggie Wrote: Could you try the first batch of seeds in the Dalefoot and Broad beans in the Moorland Gold to do a proper comparison?

Sadly I used up all my broad bean seeds, so it would be hard to do a genuine comparison.

I had multiple failures in Moorland Gold last year that I put down to user error - this was for sowings in late summer, which tend to be tricky anyway because it gets so hot in my garden - but based on this lot plus Charles Dowding's comments, I don't think the compost helped. It's really really fine in texture, so I don't think it holds enough air for seedlings' roots to thrive.
How much veg and wildlife can I pack into a 6m x 8m garden in suburban Cambridge? Let’s find out!  Smile
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MartinH Offline
Member
#4
Back in the day you could use compost straight from the bag and it would be fine. These days I always find I need to do something to it. For seedlings it needs to go through a sieve to get rid of plastic and big lumps. Often it needs some grit, vermiculite or perlite to open it up a bit too. Neither multipurpose nor soil-based composts seem to drain very well, the water makes it all stick together and stops air getting to the roots.

I don't mind messing about like this, but it must be a lot harder for inexperienced gardeners, who are often going to be disappointed and discouraged. I'm all for preserving our remaining peat bogs, but I wish the compost makers would put some effort into making their replacement stuff in some way comparable.
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Eyren Offline
Hardy perennial
#5
(15-03-2021, 10:27 AM)MartinH Wrote: Back in the day you could use compost straight from the bag and it would be fine. These days I always find I need to do something to it. For seedlings it needs to go through a sieve to get rid of plastic and big lumps. Often it needs some grit, vermiculite or perlite to open it up a bit too. Neither multipurpose nor soil-based composts seem to drain very well, the water makes it all stick together and stops air getting to the roots.

I don't mind messing about like this, but it must be a lot harder for inexperienced gardeners, who are often going to be disappointed and discouraged. I'm all for preserving our remaining peat bogs, but I wish the compost makers would put some effort into making their replacement stuff in some way comparable.

The broad beans are growing in Dalefoot Seed Compost, which I guess is a similar formulation to their other composts but sieved finer. I've had good results with it so far: in addition to the broad beans, my tomatoes, chillies, etc were all sown in it and everything has germinated apart from the aubergines. It's not cheap, but neither is sowing seeds that then fail to thrive and have to be resown.

I know better than to sow seeds in cheap or heavy compost, and I don't buy anything with bits of plastic in! I agree that there's little excuse for poor quality peat-free compost, but you get what you pay for - and as long as there are people who don't want to pay for the good stuff, manufacturers are going to keep making it.
How much veg and wildlife can I pack into a 6m x 8m garden in suburban Cambridge? Let’s find out!  Smile
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Veggie Offline
Super Pest Controller
#6
(15-03-2021, 10:47 AM)Eyren Wrote: The broad beans are growing in Dalefoot Seed Compost, which I guess is a similar formulation to their other composts but sieved finer. I've had good results with it so far: in addition to the broad beans, my tomatoes, chillies, etc were all sown in it and everything has germinated apart from the aubergines. It's not cheap, but neither is sowing seeds that then fail to thrive and have to be resown.

I know better than to sow seeds in cheap or heavy compost, and I don't buy anything with bits of plastic in! I agree that there's little excuse for poor quality peat-free compost, but you get what you pay for - and as long as there are people who don't want to pay for the good stuff, manufacturers are going to keep making it.

Moorland Gold isn't cheap and people believed they were paying for "good stuff" - but it seems that wasn't the case. So the price isn't always an indicator of quality. 

I haven't used either Moorland Gold or Dalefoot so can't speak from experience.
Wonky Shopkeeper in Sunshiny South Wales
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Spec Offline
Member
#7
As Veggie has said cost doesn't indicate quality, on a rare occasion I have bought more expensive peat free compost, and to be honest it wasn't worth the money, there was plastic and other bits of rubbish in it, after I use up the compost that I have just now I intend using leafmould and burn sand as most peat free composts that are available just now are poor quality
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toomanytommytoes Offline
Member
#8
B&Q, Wickes and Homebase all have new peat free composts in. B&Q is coir, composted bark and green waste. Homebase looks like it is the same as New Horizon (composted bark, wood fibre, coir) but under the Homebase brand. Wickes doesn't say on their website what's in it but it'll probably be the same as one of B&Q or Homebase. Composts with green waste are more likely to contain bits of plastic. So far I've only used New Horizon and quite like it, the bad reviews seem to me to be due to underfeeding.

The price of coir has gone astronomical in the last year, maybe due to the peat free compost makers buying it up, so I no longer use it. Instead I've replaced it with riddled composted bark (really nice and fluffy) which I mix with worm castings/homemade compost.
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Eyren Offline
Hardy perennial
#9
I thought this was the best place to post my ongoing compost comparison results...

I filled a half-sized seed tray with Dalefoot Seed Compost and another with sieved home-made compost, and sowed rows of leafy greens in each: spinach, chard, and 4 varieties of lettuce. I did not cover the lettuce seed with compost, just put a plastic lid over the seed tray until things started germinating.

Placed them on a shelf in my conservatory, and after one week, the home-made is clearly winning!

   

Of course this could simply be because the home-made compost got a bit more light, being on the end of the shelf, but at least it proves that the compost is good enough for growing seeds in Big Grin

Oddly, the "Mordore" lettuce (bottom row in both trays) is doing a lot better in the Dalefoot, though I had so few seeds left that there may not be many of them in the homemade compost. OTOH the Really Red Deer Tongue hasn't germinated at all in the Dalefoot, but is doing fine in my compost.

Based on this, I will definitely be switching to home-made compost when the Dalefoot runs out!
How much veg and wildlife can I pack into a 6m x 8m garden in suburban Cambridge? Let’s find out!  Smile
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