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Peat free compost

I was recently sent a couple of sample bags of peat-free compost from Westland* – in fact, they turned up shortly before Christmas – cue much head-scratching as I tried to work out what on earth kind of huge, heavy present had I forgotten about ordering…

The two kinds are New Horizon All Plant compost and New Horizon All Veg compost – both claim to be 100% sustainable, natural & peat-free compost. Now, I will confess that up until now I haven’t been a huge fan of peat-free compost, although this is very likely because I’ve bought poor quality stuff. The last bag I had was dry, woody and hard to handle – I didn’t have a very good experience of growing dahlias in it last year so it really put me off. However, I’m fully aware of the issues around peat, so I’m very keen to find a good quality (and hopefully good value) brand which will be as good for my plants as it is for the environment.

So I recently gave the first New Horizon bag a try – the All Plant version – for some pots of bulbs and for sowing some early seeds**. In contrast to the previous variety of peat-free compost I tried, this stuff is lovely and soft, it’s dark in colour and nice to work with – I would have a hard time distinguishing it from ordinary compost containing peat. So, first impressions are good.

My current seed-sowing mix: New Horizon All Plants peat free compost plus a trowelful of grit and a couple of handfuls of perlite

I will report back a little later in the season once I’ve raised some seeds and used it for containers but I’m expecting good things and I’m looking forward to trying the veggie version too. I recently had a conversation on The Scottish Garden Podcast with Ken Cox, who was quite forthright with his views on peat and how it may not be the black-and-white issue it’s portrayed in the media. I found his views really interesting and I do think it’s sensible for gardeners to do their bit in avoiding the use of peat where there’s a suitable substitute. So I’m already hoping these are products I’ll be able to use again.

For more discussion about peat and peat-free compost, you could listen to the Roots and All budcast on Going Peat Free with John Walker (scroll down about 2/3 of the way down the page) or there’s some useful advice on peat free growing for houseplants in this episode of On the Ledge. And Garden Organic has good info on peat free on this page, along with great tips on the best mixes for various growing media.

The 2020 growing season is off to a good start!

*This isn’t a sponsored post or anything – I was simply offered the chance to try some of this compost, so I took it! I hope it’s interesting for others to read about my experiences of this new product.

**So what have I sown so far in 2020? Not much, as it’s still only January! But I’ve started a couple of varieties of sweet peas and I also wanted to get a good early start on some snapdragons, which need a long growing season I believe. I’ve also fired up the propagator and popped in some Verbena bonariensis (I want loads more of this in my front garden!) and some Stipa tenuissima, which is great for pots and borders too.

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