Author Topic: Compost! again  (Read 1745 times)

Tee Gee

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Compost! again
« on: June 02, 2021, 15:08:51 »
Just making a general comment that I would like your opinions on!

The query is: Are you finding that present day compost gets VERY wet?

I have noticed that the MP compost I have been buying lately;  Namely Clover and/or Humax remains very, very wet to the point if left in that way, it affects the health of any plants planted in it.

I am finding that the plants appear to droop as if lacking moisture, yet I know I water them regularly but not too regularly as I am well aware that more plants die because of over watering, rather than under watering, so to that end I am very careful with my "Watering Regime"

Last year I lost lots of plants that were being grown in containers i.e. in potting compost, whereas similar plants grown out in the garden soil flourished.

The same thing happened to family and friends I make up potted plants for.

On seeing this I started doing a bit of investigation as to what was causing this problem i.e. was I doing something wrong or was it the materials I was using was the problem.

Last year I used Clover MP and I noticed something rather strange written on each bag and that was;

"Not Suitable for Commercial Use"

Why I asked myself and my thoughts went to "Double Standard Sales Practices"

I contacted Clover and explained about the wetness of the compost, and they replied; 'You must have put the water there' an understatement if ever there was one!

I mentioned the comment "Not Suitable for Commercial Use" on the packaging, and they replied; The recipe for Commercial use relative to'General Use' is different

On challenging this they would not comment as to why this is.

I then commented on the other information on the bag where it mentions that the product contains an added 'Wetting Agent' and was it this that is causing the wetness in the compost?

Again they would not give an explanation!

Now my knowledge of 'Wetting Agents' was due to complaints in the past where gardeners complained "Peat Based" composts were difficult to re-wet if they ever dried out.

So the producers started adding a wetting agent to alleviate this problem which it largely did!

So my next query was; Now that we are using Reduced Peat or Peat free composts was there any need for a wetting agent?

Again no comment!

This year I am mixing all of my compost myself based on the John Innes recipe which is;

7 parts sterilised loam
3 parts peat
2 parts sharp sand

Then add:
0.6gms per litre ground limestone (0.6 kg per cubic metre)
3gms per litre John Innes Base fertiliser (3kg per cubic metre)

I have altered this mix slightly see here;

I first mix up largish quantities of what I call my 'Base Mix' and I check the PH and adjust it with lime as required.

6 parts saved compost from previous year
3 parts Westlands MP https://www.thepotplace.co.uk/product/westland-the-gardners-multi-purpose-compost/
I was put on to this by my local garden centre manager who advised me that it had a high Peat content(60% he thought) so I bought a couple of bags of this and I like it!
In terms of the emphasis of reducing Peat usage, I could say that this could be described as; 'Reduced Peat JI multi-purpose compost.
2 Parts Perlite in place of sand.

In terms of adding fertiliser I add John Innes Base fertiliser in quantities specified to give me Ji1,Ji2,Ji3.

What I can say about my finished product is that is 'consistent' but it is still holding onto excess moisture!

What I am finding I have to do when watering is insert my hydrometer probe into the pot/s to determine if they need watering!

I am now getting more expert at this in so far as any plants that are drooping or looking in poor health does NOT need watering!

Due to this warm spell the surface of the compost is snuff dry yet about 3inches(7 cm) down it is registering midway between MOIST and WET on the poorly plants the needle swing rapidly off the scale.

So as you see I have not resolved the moisture content of my compost as such, however in the back of my mind I am thinking there could still be residual 'wetting agent' in my old & new compost content.

This is where I want you guys to come in to help me to produce a heath-robinson type survey on;

1) Do you find that your compost is saturated/moist/dryish than it was in previous years?
2) Does it mention on the packaging;  peat free/reduced peat?
3) Does it mention on the packaging; any special characteristics e.g. added wetting agent, added something else?
3) Optional;Compost brand

Sorry for rabbiting on a bit about compost again but as mentioned in another recent thread that Peat will be banned all together in a few years time, and I think by finding out what is really happening now, will perhaps make us better informed to respond to the eventual 'Peat Replacement'

I look forward to your responses...Tg


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Compost! again
« on: June 02, 2021, 15:08:51 »

Obelixx

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2021, 15:50:37 »
Compost composition is a lottery here as there seems to be no John Innes or Levington standard.

I only ever buy MPC when it's on a BOGOF offer and then only use it as a soil conditioner on beds I'm about to plant up.

I buy what is supposed to be compost for seeds and cuttings but there is no indication as to content.  It seems to be recycled/composted vegetable matter and isn't sterilised so I get odd seedlings as well as the ones I've sown.   I use another compost, supposedly good for pelargoniums and flowering plants for potting on.   It seems to have a bit of loam in it but it also not been sterilised.    I have just pulled up yet another clump of red shank/persicaria weed that came as a passenger in a batch 2 years ago.  last year it was that horrid low growing yellow leaved clover.

I now buy the seed compost and a soil conditioner and have been mixing those up for my potting on mixture.  So far so good but an earlier experiment this year, mixing "terre végétale" (top soil it seems) with the seed compost for texture has proved too heavy and soil like for my tender fuchsias in pots and they're going to need re-potting.

I used to see bags of 100% peat but none so far this year and I wouldn't buy it anyway.    Our own garden compost is wonderful stuff for improving soil but is also full of weed seeds and we have so many beds needing it that we'll never have enough to use in making our own sowing and potting compost.  Luckily the local store has regular BOGOFs.
Obxx - Vendée France

gray1720

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2021, 16:22:51 »
I've certainly noted thsi year that the Humax peat-free I had early in the season stayed very wet, and things didn't like it. I usually mix a bit of sand and gravel in to make a seed compost, but this year things really didn't like it. It also had big pieces of organic matter in it that looked like shredded bark.

The nursery I bought it from has now stopped supplying it in favour of Silvagrow, which seems to behave much better.
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Beersmith

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2021, 17:33:52 »
Some good detective work there TG.

My most recent purchase was Dobbies multi-purpose, reduced peat.

Claims 40% peat.  (Have I mentioned my Dutch ancestry).

Claims added John Innes.  (Not sure what that means.)

No mention of wetting agents.

Warns, not suitable for fine seeds.

No mention of suitability for commercial use.

My overall assessment, not great but I've had much worse.

In my experience if compost gets too dry peat based compost re-wets easier than multi-purpose, although soaking from the bottom may be needed. On wetness and moisture retention I'm unsure. I think the cold conditions may have needed me to be less generous with my watering this season.
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Paulh

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2021, 17:55:22 »
This year I have used:

1. Westland Jack's Magic (bought last year)

"A traditionally blended, all-purpose growing medium, rich in Peat, enriched with seaweed and organic fertiliser to continue feeding plants for up to 5 weeks after planting".

2. Bathgate Champion's Blend. This doesn't actually say what growing medium it contains, so I assume it's peat. It has additions including a wetting agent and:

"Champions Blend All Purpose Compost is a premium grade compost to be enriched with REMIN volcanic rock dust. It also contains Envii Foundation which is a naturally occurring blend of bacteria and fungi and Oceans Bounty Natural Seaweed Extract."

It advises to keep the compost moist but not saturated and to add feed after six weeks.

3. Bathgate Multipurpose

"100% Irish Peat
0 - 12 mm Graded
RHP Certified
Includes Wetting Agents
Professional Grade 14-16-18 Base Fertiliser
Plus Trace Elements
Magnesium Lime
A light weight, premium quality multipurpose compost, suitable for a wide range of pot and container growing applications. Not made from recycled waste this compost won't stain your hands and is completely weed free."

I would rather avoid peat and used to buy coir-based composts but I've not found any non-peat one that is a quality product.

All looked and felt good, but the multi-purpose one less so. It was less well graded but did not have too many larger bits in it to be a nuisance.

What I found with all of them is that the compost either dries out quickly or, if you overwater, it goes claggy, does not dry out and algae grows on the surface. It is a battle to keep it OK.

With some seeds, they germinate and sit there do nothing as if lacking nutrients. This was mainly in the multi-purpose but also in the other two.

Annoyingly, you can have two pots side by side with the same seeds sown and same compost used and the performance is quite different.





Tiny Clanger

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2021, 12:43:24 »
Hello TeeGee,

We have all sorts of problems with growbags over the last few years.  Always used Tomorite bags in the small greenhouse (its on concrete base) for years.  over the last few the results have been VERY strange.  I reckon the contents are from a council composter and the public are sending all sorts of stuff there heavily treated with various brands of weed killer which is worrying.

We switched to peat free miracle grow bags this year - even worse.  a very little water swamps them out and leaches all the nutrients away, causing plants to go yellowy and look quite poorly.  After draining as best we could, and leaving quite a while with no water at all, i gave them small drinks with phostrogen in.  they have perked up and now seem to be back on track.

Conversely, I have cherry bush tomatoes (Moskotka) in hanging baskets of Jacks Magic compost - getting tomorite feed weekly.  These are thriving.

In the polytunnel I have Italian style tomatoes planted directly into "pockets" dug out and with 2 year old horse manure at the bottom and a mixture of soil and Jacks Magic compost.  These are getting miracle grow feed and are REALLY thriving. Again, 2 plants in a peat-free Miracle Gro bag are NOT doing so well.

Something very odd is going on and its worrying.
x

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Tee Gee

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2021, 14:30:22 »
I guess most of you, like me, will have experienced quite warm weather over the last few days (the hottest days so far this year according to the Met Office)

I haven't watered my Tomatoes in over a week, where normally I would have possibly watered them daily in this sort of weather.

In order to keep a bit of humidity around the plants, last night I misted the surface of the compost because it is snuff dry!

This morning I stuck my hydrometer roughly 3" into the compost and the photos below show the results!

As you can see the plant you would have thought was suffering from dryness is quite stressed whereas the plant that is OK is in the dryer compost! i.e. the results are showing the effects I discussed in my main article.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2021, 14:31:58 by Tee Gee »

lezelle

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2021, 11:16:33 »
Hi Ya, Interesting subject, I didn't know they were banning peat excavation. I understand that peat bogs are essential to the environment, I myself use Jacks Magic and I use traditional mixture in 60ltr bags. I could not see the mix but it said peat and natural items with plant food. There are some advisory H&S notes like breathing in fumes. I think it's good and have used it quite some tome time. This season I have mixed some home made compost with it to see how it goes. I have tried some non peat compost and have not been very impressed as it totally horrible. I did a composting course and the stuff they produced looked good. How ever the council had a get a free bag for each household and I went to get some and didn't bother as it was absolutely terrible, still steaming so not properly rotted and big sticks in it etc. I would use the stuff I saw on our visit to the composting site but it s not available to everyday gardeners only farmers etc. Be interesting to see what occurs. Take care all

Tee Gee

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2021, 15:59:04 »
hi Guys

Thanks for getting back to me!

What does come over loud and clear to me is that Current day Compost Recipes are generally quite poor, with many not being fit for purpose!

Possibly not enough opinions to come up with a definitive answer to the ‘Peat free’ problem, but that said;  I think Obelixx says it all with her comment;

 Compost composition is a lottery here, as there seems to be no John Innes or Levington standard.

I agree that Standards should have to be met otherwise the ‘amateur gardener’ will potentially be paying for stuff that is; Unfit for Purpose!

My own view on this is; I always wondered why compost producers are not obliged to state the NPK of the compost.

With all other garden products this is mandatory.

The supplier's argument is that all retailers do not store their bags under cover meaning the fertilisers could leach out which is a valid point, but by the same token; they do often mention this bag contain x litres at time of packaging, so why not add the NPK content similarly?


Then there is the RHS (and similar organisations) who have been researching 'peat free' compost for many years and this is their spiel  (with lots of links):

https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/policies/rhs-statement-on-peat.


It is all very well for the RHS to say they do not use peat any more unless they are growing plants that need it, when you consider they have access to acres of land to collect compostable material from, something that most amateur gardeners don’t have!

For example; Wisley covers an area of around 200 acres, the other four gardens each cover an area of around 60 acres.

On each of these gardens they have a managed built for purpose compost collection systems with large areas dedicated to compost heaps, plus attendant mechanical equipment and staff to ensure that it is regularly turned over.

Compare that with my 0.1 acre of land (note; my house, garage and drive covers part of that area) and all I have is a couple of Dalek compost bins.

Ensuring the compost within the Daleks is turned over regularly is bl**dy hard work. To be honest now that I am knocking on a bit I tend not to turn the contents over and leave the contents to rot down for a longer period than normal. e.g I only empty one of the two bins each year meaning the contents have had the best part of two years to rot down!

This means that I will be largely dependent on Commercial enterprises with similar compost management facilities for my compost!

But what quality of compost can I expect?

In my opinion; If and when Peat is done away 100% there should be legislation to ensure that the quality of all composts meets a particular standard at point of sale!

(I don't think I will be holding my breath long on that one) :tongue3:

On reading the RHS spiel (link above) I noticed that the John Innes Formula (which is traditionally; peat based) is to be altered!

From:

7 parts sterilised loam
3 parts peat
2 parts sharp sand

Then add:
0.6gms per litre ground limestone (0.6 kg per cubic metre)
3gms per litre John Innes Base fertiliser (3 kg per cubic metre)

To:

7 parts sterilised loam (If you can get it)
3 parts substitute ‘Peat free’ compost.
2 parts sharp sand

Then add:
0.6gms per litre ground limestone (0.6 kg per cubic metre)
3gms per litre John Innes Base fertiliser (3 kg per cubic metre)


Which coincidently I have been trying out this year, and I am finding out it is not as easy as it seems.

For example; I am finding that many of the 'Peat free' composts subject to the recipe of constituent parts are giving variable pH values, meaning that the 0.6gms per litre ground limestone (0.6 kg per cubic metre) may be over/under the required amount.

Similarly, some recipes are more moisture retentive, meaning adding 2 parts sharp sand may not be enough or indeed be too much.

I use Perlite in lieu of sand as it gives me better consistency as some sands often have high/low salt and/or clay content.


So now you can see why I am asking for legislation to ensure that the quality of all compost.

If not; what you can bet on is:

Prices are going to go up, despite the producers using 'recycled materials.
 
OK one could say that there was a ‘preparation cost’ with peat based composts!

Perhaps I am being too cynical!


I could go on being more cynical, but I will leave that for another day as I am sure the ‘compost issue’ is going to be with us for a long time yet!

Once again thanks for your response and I hope I haven’t bored you too much with my ramblings.

Tg

Deb P

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2021, 16:38:49 »
Agree all purchased compost is a lottery this year. I tried ‘Jacks magic ‘ compost this year and found it extremely variable and with a high proportion of large pieces of bark and fibre that made it unusable for seed sowing even post sieving. I also had the overwetting problem quickly followed by green algae crust developing within days. In the end I invested in a pallet of Mr Mucks mushroom/ manure mix and mixed that 50/50 with B & Qs own brand multi Purpose to pot on my tomatoes and summer dahlias and so far they are growing on strongly !
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InfraDig

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2021, 23:17:00 »
I have just seen the headline: G7 Ministers agree new steps against fossil fuels. If they approach this in the same way as the use of peat, I am expecting that us gardeners will not be able to use petrol mowers by the end of 2022!!

Beersmith

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2021, 23:06:18 »
I have just seen the headline: G7 Ministers agree new steps against fossil fuels. If they approach this in the same way as the use of peat, I am expecting that us gardeners will not be able to use petrol mowers by the end of 2022!!

I assume that was a typo for 2202.

The end of metaldehyde has been signalled for ages. Current date for ending its use is March 2022. Government rarely does anything quickly. The Grenfell tragedy was in 2017.  Thousands of people are still living in buildings clad with flammable panels.  Most urgent changes get pencilled in for "the end of this parliament", but then an election is called before they get implemented and they are omitted from the next manifesto.

Worry not about the end of petrol mowers. Leave that to your grandkids.

Not mad, just out to mulch!

InfraDig

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2021, 23:30:38 »
I am sorry. I was being facetious! As has already been suggested, problems like these always seem to be tackled by hitting the "little guy" first, the "low hanging fruit". Amateur gardening and indeed horticulture are two of the lowest users of peat, with agriculture being amongst the highest, if what I am reading is correct. There are also plenty of claims that sedge moss and sedge moss peat are sustainable in certain countries for example Canada and Finland, and on the same timescales as forestry. I realise that would mean importing it, but we would have to do the same with coir, which seems to be promoted as a viable alternative, with no consideration of the impact its production has on the areas producing it. I am not trying to be contrarian, I just think we need to look into the "touchy feely" solutions we are being fed at the moment.

Beersmith

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2021, 06:57:32 »
My apologies. I took your first comment rather too literally!

problems like these always seem to be tackled by hitting the "little guy" first

Ain't that the truth.

Not mad, just out to mulch!

Paulh

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Re: Compost! again
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2021, 09:22:05 »
To redress the balance a bit, the composts have been performing well since the plants have grown larger and the cells / pots are bigger. I've got some seeds coming up in the smaller cells and those are beginning to look claggy though. So perhaps in part at least it's a volume / water ratio issue and this gardener needs to learn better how to regulate the watering!

 

anything