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Compost survey

Has anyone else noticed the poor quality of bagged , branded compost ? This seems to be a result of the removal of peat .

We are in the process of a large planting job requiring compost , much of it contains a lot of wood fibre and even small lumps of chipped wood. How this supplies any nutrition is beyond me, the volume of wood fibre does vary by brand and can vary wildly even within the same brand.

The cynic in me suggests that as compost is sold by volume rather than weight incorporating wood fibre increases volume at little cost to the manufacturer.

Presumably this peat free compost is composted green waste, I know that our local green waste facility supplies a major compost manufacturer as have seen their artics being loaded, the same facility also processes massive volumes of waste wood, pallets etc which I assume is either mixed in or sold as separately to the same manufacturer.

Bearing in mind that the green waste processors are charging for disposal and then charging the compost manufacturers for the end product there must be big profit margins ! 

Anyway back to the main point what brand(s) of compost do members use and recommend?

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  • PRO

    John innes and Jacks magic both seem reluably consistent in quality and deliver results in keeping with their recommended uses  .

    Have noticed a lot more wood fibre and stones in budget composts , years ago if a lump of shredded wood appeared in a bag of compost I remember there would be an outcry and become a talking point when we were pricking out and potting on because it was uncommon but now I barely raise an eyebrow I just trust it's source is reliable and it's processing somehow added benefit to the planet  

    On another subject a customer purchased several bags of soil conditioner from a door step seller and the garden became infested with ground elder yet the conditioners texture looked lovely .

    I suppose it comes down to how it's screened from source .

    The texture of the peat free composts are becoming better of late I am finding .

    • Update, just been to our usual supplier who also are a large commercial grower who also retails bagged compost and they were in agreement that the peat free compost is utter c**p and to be avoided at all costs!

      This from someone who has a vested interest in selling this stuff, they have upwards of 50 pallets for sale, they have noticed when used in pots that although the top of the compost in the pot is dry the remainder is soaking wet and does'nt drain resulting in root rot. They only sell the well known brands not budget brands. Have bought their peat based commercial growing medium instead which is not available to the public, not a piece of wood fibre in sight!





      • PRO

        Used a bag of Westland naturally peat free at home in some hanging baskets and it appears to be very water retentive and plants thriving , I will probably continue for summer planting and monitor results . 

        The less watering the better in summer .

        So far no slurry in bulb planters either but will be interesting to record results    

        Grow bags are another area , not been impressed with these for a long time .

  • PRO

    Agreed the peat free stuff is total rubbish literally! Jacks magic used to be my go to when it was peat based and the new stuff is the best of a bad bunch. Currently trying levington which seemed better but noticed today when potting some plants at home that it has some peat in it!

    • Be interested in how you get on with it and was it a local supplier or a national retailer ? Westland seem to own all the well known brands inc jacks magic, wonder if its all the same stuff sold under different brand names ? Marketing bulls**t ?

  • We try and use Arthur bowers John inner, and not any Levington anymore after we used it on a load of big pots on light grey granite patio and it was leaching a brown dye on the patio that was a nightmare to remove if it had dried between visits.

  • PRO

    I'm getting through a lot of Apsley Mulch now https://mulch.apsleyfarms.com/product/apsley-mulch-soil-improver/ -either mixing it with top soil or compost. THat said I'm lucky as I'm within their free delivery range 

    Apsley mulch | Soil improver bulk bag
    Apsley Soil improving Mulch adds nutrients, NPK, organic matter, suppresses weeds, deters snails, helps with water retention, insulates from heat and…
  • We're lucky enough to be near a greenwaste recycling plant.  The bagged peat-free is designed for use in plastic pots.  The composted and screened greenwaste is excellent for soil improvement and planting if you can get it.


  • I have been using Melcourt Sylvagrow for a few years now. Bracken based & no wood fibre or crap within it. I tend to mix in some Perlite depending on what it is being used for. It was sold in 50Lt bags until last spring when they dropped 20% out, 40Lt & of course the price remained the same, so 20% more!

    When I was Landscaping up in Bury St Edmunds 15 years or so ago, the local Green Waste facility used to give away the by-product, Soil Improver & compost. The local farmers used to take it away by the truck load & we had to shovel it into tonne bags in the back of a van. I bet they don't give it away now!!

  • PRO

    I have found Sylvagrow pretty good for seedlings, and annuals in particular. I usually mix it with John Innes no. 3 or actual soil from our vegetable garden which has been improved over the years with home made compost and horse manure for longer-term plantings. You can use screened top soil which is pretty light on texture, but I find you have to add something else like horse manure to beef it up and make it more likely to develop a range of nutrients through worm and other organisms' activity. On its own it's just too thin and sterile (no weed seeds though!). I believe Jack's Magic still has some peat in it and my husband leaps on this if he sees it to develop his vegetable plants, but I think his reliance on peat is somewhat misplaced, as you could try feeding plants with liquid feeds or pelleted feeds like Vitax Q4 to boost them if the nutrients in the compost isn't enough. Wood chips are present in most peat free composts but to varying degrees and grades and there are some brands I simply wouldn't buy because of their excessive use of large pieces of wood.

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