Real Men Sow

A Brief Guide to Multi-Purpose Compost

This is a republished post from 2014, as part of Real Men Sow Seed Sowing Week. Decent compost is important, and I’d definitely recommend spending the extra on the good stuff.

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If, like me you sow predominantly into pots, you’ll be stocking up on bags of multi-purpose compost now. A decent multi-purpose compost is vital to a successful sowing season, and is imperative to a good Springtime start.

With many different composts now on the market, and even more 3 for 2 offers, it’s useful to know what you’re buying. So without further ado, here’s a brief Real Men Sow guide to multi-purpose compost.

What is Multi-Purpose Compost?
Multi-purpose compost is a traditionally a blend of peat and other materials, such as bark or green compost, as well as fertiliser and lime. The idea is to create a pH and nutrient level that is suitable for growing a wide range of plants.

Most multi-purpose compost can be used for sowing seeds, repotting plants and filling containers.

What Should I Look Out For?
Ideally, the texture of your compost should be fairly fine. This will help hold moisture and allow seedlings the chance to break through.

Sometimes, cheaper composts use lots of bark and this can be a problem with finer seeds such as carrots and leeks. If you’re worried, try sieving the compost with a garden sieve first to get the soil nice and fine.

Also, if the bags are stored outside, check they’re not really heavy from rain before buying (especially this year!). Rain can easily get inside the bags, making the soil wet and stinky rather than crumbly and light.

Going Peat Free
Many gardeners are trying to go peat free, due to the negative impact of peat extraction on habitat and the wider environment. Peat free composts are made from surplus garden waste that would otherwise go to landfill.

I’ve been using peat free compost for a few years now, and having experienced no problems with germination or seedling growth I thoroughly recommend it.

My favourite peat free compost is the Durston’s offering, which is lovely and crumbly and delivered to my door by the milkman. Generally you can pick this up for a fiver a bag.

Can I Make My Own?
Yes! I did this last year and found the experience rather satisfying. All you need is a garden sieve, and equal parts of soil (I used molehill soil from a local common), leaf mulch and kitchen compost.

The soil around here is predominantly clay, so the pots dried out quicker and as your homemade multipurpose will not have been treated you will have to put up with a few weeds. However, everything germinated just fine, at a fraction of the cost of several bags of shop bought compost.

If you want to have a go at making your own multipurpose compost, I’d recommend sieving little and often. I found this rather a therapeutic experience, but a much pleasanter one for a sunny half an hour instead of all afternoon!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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