Compost is the medium for almost all growing in the garden and most certainly everything in the greenhouse. Purchased compost has several advantages over its home-made counterpart (not that there isn’t a place for home-made compost because there most certainly is in the modern garden). Almost all purchased compost is sterilized, removing harmful bacteria and disease from the soil before sale to the general public. This makes it ideal for use in seed sowing as it ensures that seedlings properly develop without disease. The compost types are listed below alongside their uses in the garden too.
This is the most common of all the composts and the most versatile too. It fulfills a variety of roles in the garden and greenhouse and is suitable for everything. I have successfully used Multi-Purpose for both seed sowing and final potting for the past 6 years and never suffered adversely. I have also used the cheapest bags available from Focus or Wickes and experienced no problems thus far. It should not, however, be allowed to dry out excessively as this will inhibit the transfer of nutrients. This type of compost is suitable for most types of plants too except for those plants that do not tolerate acidic soil (multi-purpose compost turns mildly acidic after time), which will need Ericaceous compost as noted below.
Seed Compost (Usually John Innes)
This compost will usually be in a smaller bag than the Multi-Purpose variety and cost more, however, it will be of a finer quality and highly nutritious for younger seedlings. The seed compost will incorporate a small amount of sand too, as this enables easier root penetration into the soil and great growth. Many gardeners choose to replicate this compost themselves by sieving multi-purpose and adding sand and mixing it together.
John Innes No.3 Compost
This compost is seldom seen in amateur gardens and it is grossly underused. No.3 compost is highly nutritious and filled with several added nutrients and trace elements. It is commonly used for planting tomatoes in inside large containers as an alternative to grow bags. Many gardeners also use No.3 to fill in around recently transplanted plants as a source of instant nutrients.
This is used for alkali loving plants such as heathers which will not tolerate acidic soil. Often, plants such as heather will survive in other forms of compost but they will not flourish unless planted in Ericaceous Compost.
Peat-Free Varieties of Compost
This form of compost is increasingly used in environmentally friendly circles as it saves damage to the environment and prevents the depletion of peat bogs in the UK. It has the peat replaced with trace elements and additional nutrients and is actually not too different from its peat filled equivalent.
Used Mushroom Compost
This form of compost often contains high concentrations of chalk particles and will require it to be used in moderation in the garden, for fear of creating excessively alkaline soils. This can be used to the gardener’s advantage though, as using this form of compost in acidic soil will ensure that the soils neutrality is restored. It should, however, be used sparingly in the majority of amateur garden instances, to avoid an adverse effect on the plants.
Article by Kevin Thornes
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