Which compost should I buy?

What is the best compost to use?  What kind of compost is best for gardens?  Does it matter what compost you use?  What is the best compost for soil?  What is the best bagged compost to buy?  Can I grow veg in multi-purpose compost?

With so many different names out there it can be tricky knowing which compost is right for your plants let alone what type you need.  In this blog post we will discuss the various types of compost and which application suits them best.

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Let's break it down to the 5 main compost categories.

1.  Peat based compost

As the name would indicate, this is a peat based compost.  Traditionally used by gardeners as peat produces an excellent growing environment for plants.  Peat holds water well and is full of nutrients, providing a good texture maintaining aeriation and avoiding compaction.  

It is well known that nowadays gardeners have moved away from peat based products as using them is detrimental to the environment.  Peat comes from lowland peat bogs and we are using it faster than nature can replenish it.

5 Main types of compost

  1. Peat based compost

  2. Loam based compost

  3. Peat free compost

  4. Organic compost

  5. All/multi purpose compost

Historically we have struggled to produce an equal alternative, however with extensive research and development there are now alternative options available (still providing the same benefits of peat based composts.)  

2.  Loam based composts

Made up of a mixture that contains loam soil, hence the name.  Potting composts do not usually contain loam soil but there are some.  Loam soils are made up of a mixture of clay, silt sand and organic matter.  One of the benefits of loam compost is that the loam helps to stabilise the fluctuations in water and nutrient content in the compost - making it a great option where plants are placed somewhere for a long time.  Loam based composts are typically used for vegetable gardens or mature indoor/outdoor plants, this will of course depend on what you are growing.

3.  Peat free compost

There are many peat free composts available.  Although in the past peat free composts were not comparable to peat composts, with continuing research and development they are now a great option.  Not only is peat free compost an effective growing medium but it is environmentally friendly, unlike peat based compost.

4.  Organic compost

Organic composts can be made up of a variety of materials such as wood fibres, composted bark, peat and organic wasted from plants and animals.  The decomposed animal and plant matter produces nutrients beneficial for plant growing.  It is usually more expensive due to the extra work that goes into making sure it is organic.  It usually needs to be certified meaning that all of the products going into it also need to be certified organic - hence why it takes more effort to produce.

5.  All/multipurpose compost

There are various multipurpose composts made up of varying materials.  It can also be used for many applications such as beds, borders and hanging baskets.  What's in it will determine the benefits of that particular compost - some will feed plants for longer than others, whereas some will need less watering.  Watch out for cheaper brands which may have lots of bark in it as this will not be helpful to use when planting finer seeds.

So which one should I buy?

With each type of plant having it's own set of requirements the best thing you can do is read the label!  Garden centres will have many types of composts designed for different plants.  The companies who make the compost will have done the work for you and put together the right mix needed for your plants.  There are house plant composts, bulb planting composts, seed and cutting compost, container and basket compost and many more.  If you are not sure then a good multipurpose compost should suffice.