Which Compost To Buy

which one...?

Buying compost for some, is possibly a little like me trying to figure which washing powder I am supposed to put in the supermarket trolley. 😉 It wasn’t always like that….

I couldn’t believe it when in the garden centre recently the amount of types variations in labells one could buy. It’s seemed extremely confusing to be quite honest.

I remember still, growing my first seeds with my grandfather and my second batch of seeds with my Dad. I would have been no more than 5 years old. This clap trap never existed. Never. It was a hand full of clay in a pot, possibly sieved and that was the end of it.

Golden rule number one: Do not get confused by what’s on the shelf. Gardening has been around for centuries and 150 years ago you couldn’t buy a bag of compost if you tried. Fact.

Before I go any further I must sidetrack, slightly so stay with me here: the pH scale is a range from 1 -14 which tells us how acidic or alkali [in this case] a soil/ compost is. For the moment/ example car battery acid would be on the lower end of the scale and milk would be on the higher end.

In theory, as it stands, almost all composts are peat [as in peat moss from a bog] based. Although the use of peat and amount of may change in the coming future. What one must appreciate is that peat has a low pH and is the basis for the making of almost all composts.

In basic compost terms there are two main types:

  • The first Ericaceous or acid loving – just two of the names it may come under and are pretty much peat mixed with a [slow release] fertiliser and a wetting agent. It comes with a pH of approximately 4.8.

Wetting agents are used because peat, when it dries tends to [kinda] combine, meet and muster itself together in one big clump. This is particularly visible in pots where it almost leaves a gap between itself and the container. When one tries to water and dampen the peat/ compost mass will simply float like a buoy or the water will just run off and down the sides.

  • The second type is compost. In any variation… from potting to multi purpose they are pretty much all the same. They are peat, mixed with a slow release feed and lime [or a substitute of some format] which will reduce the pH acidity.


The only thing that differs [generally speaking] from the compost used for potting trees versus that used for eg in growing bedding plants is the particle size in the peat and the duration that the feed will last. ie. trees will prefer a chunkier particle and will remain in the compost longer where bedding plants will only last about three months plus and the compost must be almost sugar granule size.

For those not in the nursey trade attempting to grow prize crops… or to put in context when I am at home growing my salads and herbs I simply grab whatever is available and failing that a handful of clay from the garden. The only honest difference between the ‘muck’ in your garden and the bagged compost will be the consistency at which the plant will grow.


As a by the way John Innes is a range of compost mixes. So if this multi purpose compost has added John Innes…. it’s either the man himself in there or [put in very simple terms…] it’s actually compost with added compost.

Technically you can call it something else. In the specialist nursery sector and prize winning plants one could argue…. But tell me I am wrong…?

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fertilising lawns…


Yesterday and today saw a battered lawn take a spoon full of sugar. Oh yes! Caculated green back to perfection time is 4 weeks.

The days of the old 10:10:20 fertliser have passed however – For the times they are a changin’ – I’m not saying they’re defunct just passed – for me. In horticulture, the science of, where time management is concerned – is so important whilst inceasing quality – in this case this is a revelation [that’s been here for a while].

I’ve used a slow release fertiliser [like osmocote but for lawns]. Briefly, its’s like an M&M sweet[?!] – the outer coat contains the feed within – if the plant [grass in this case] grows at 12-14 celcius then the feed releases – when temperatures go below that – it stops… put simply.


The ‘old way’ meant if it rained the fertiliser may be leeched through the soil and therefore had little or no effect. I’ve used Scotts Sierrablen range 14:5:21 + 2MgO which slowly releases feed over a 4-5 month range. This is where intelligence saves money. The feed does cost a little extra but the time saved and moreso only having to treat it once per growing season-ish is partly why.

The spreader [modelled by my good buddy Adam] is really cool. This one has a handle on one side [left as you look] which if pulled prevents it from going to that side. The importance here is that the fertiliser for the lawn is not that which would suit a fruit tree. Hence the name – edgeguard!

The pull handle in the middle means it doesn’t release feed unless you want to… little or no waste.

The green ‘bit’ between the handle and the holder sets the rate of output. A genius invention and so simplistic.

God – if I was getting paid for product placement I’d be worth a fortune… but, the truth is, as much as the people of Memphis believe that Elvis is The King of Rock and Roll – the reality is, there is not much competition to disprove or disagree. The people of Scotts have a really good product. It’s not that I prefer it. It is simply a good product.

If you are spreading – reduce the rate by half. Push in straight lines up and down – and then – go across left to right – normal output rates still apply. Application rates do vary but it’s recommended at 25-40gramms per metre squared. If you’re unsure do a trial run first [I insist!!] or you’l end up with variance in the lushness of your greens. Enjoy!

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bulbs – planting starts now!



You want spring colour in your garden, but you and I know the gardeners summer holidays is just after the sprouts and turkey, when you most need a little inspiration and even the garden is looking a little lazy. Grandma’ and the relations have just moved back home and you’ve got to go outside semi-unthawed and breath some life into the earth. Why not plant your bulbs now and look out the window!

The bigger the bulb – the better the bloom Your bulbs should be healthy, free from blemishes and nicely plump. Depending on the natural size of the bulb, bulbs that are too small don’t always flower in the first year and larger bulbs produce better flowers. Avoid dessicated and withered or those with symptoms of mould or rot. Bulbs that have been overexposed to light or warmth in storage can begin leaf growth which usually results in an immature root system and ultimately weak floppy stems

Best planted in clusters Plant in Autumn or early winter before the ground freezes. The biochemical process requiring low temperatures in order to flower is called vernalisation. Depth of planting as a general is usually three times the height of the bulb but this may vary. With rhizomes and tubers for example, shallow planting is a must and both should be placed tops level with the soil surface. Tuberous roots must be placed with sufficient depth for their fibrous roots with stem buds near the surface.

Planting Tips Make a hole using a trowel, shovel or a buy yourself a special bulb digger. Bulbs don’t need great soil but they do need good drainage. Chicken wire over the soil will prevent squirrels from eating the bulbs. To encourage growth use a bulb fertiliser/ slow release bulb food rather than bone meal. Deeply dug bulbs divide slower and require less lifting for division. Sharp sand can be used or added for extra drainage and/ or deep planting. Plant bulbs as soon as you can after purchase. If you can’t – store them in a cool dry place or in a refrigerator.

Do remember this is a general guide to bulbs. If you have any further questions, queries or requests you can as always post your comment on the weblog, email or call me. I must also mention it is positive ageing week running until October 6th their website is well worth a visit. Light up your life, plant some bulbs and as always enjoy.

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