Wondering which compost to buy?


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As the growing season gets started we take a look at a compost trial carried out by Daniel the Patient Gardener.

Last year Daniel (the Patient Gardener) carried out a trial using 17 different compost types.  Here is his introduction from his website ‘The Patient Gardener’ followed by his findings.


Hey, I’m Daniel. Having worked as a professional gardener for years as well as keeping a private allotment I decided to create this website to help spread my knowledge. I love gardening and hope to show you just how rewarding it can be!

What Is The Best Peat Free Compost? My Trial!

It’s getting trickier and trickier to find a good, reliable compost since the swap to peat free. So to help everyone, I have created this large trial that I will be running this year [2023]. I have many peat-free composts, many of which I had never heard of before beginning this endeavour. I have composts from big brands and small independents, so let’s see the differences.

I will be sieving the composts, to begin with, to get a first impression of them all; then, I will be using them to grow runner beans (a notoriously hungry plant) to see how much nutrition is in each bag. And before we begin, I would like to thank all the companies who sent me some compost to use in this trial!

The Competitors:

Let’s dig into the bags and see what the compost look like, shall we?

B&Q Multi-Purpose

The classic B&Q compost, one of the cheapest in the trial. This should give a good barometer to test the others against. Nothing in there that shouldn’t be, but it’s quite a fibrous compost. I have always found this with the B&Q stuff, but I have no idea what the fibrous stuff is.

Coco & Coir All Purpose Compost

Our first of the coir composts, these expanding composts use coir (the fluff on a coconut shell) as the main ingredient. You can see the green fertiliser balls, these are needed as coir on its own provides no nutrition.

Dalefoot Wool Compost For Tomatoes

This is an innovative compost from a company in the lake district. They use sheep wool and bracken to make their compost. A lovely dark compost with very few big bits in it. Quite woody but I imagine a lot of that is the bracken.

Dalefoot Wool Compost For Veg

Again the same as above, but this is the vegetable and salad mix. Very similar to its cousin above.

Doff Expanding Compost

Another coir expanding compost, but this one comes loose in a bag rather than as a solid block. They all look very similar at this stage. Not much to say apart from I didn’t get the advertised 15L out of it. This may be my fault however as I did make my mix quite wet, not sure!

Fertile Fibre Multipurpose

this is a Which best buy! Let’s see how it gets on. This is a lovely compost that is very fine and smooth. From the leftovers it could be a completely coir based compost.

Growmoor More Grow

I love Growmoors standard compost, so it will be interesting to see how the peat free version fares. Quite a woody compost mix, but not bad overall when you consider this is one of the cheaper ones. Nothing in there that shouldn’t be, and also some perlite has been added to help drainage.

Harmony Garden Multipurpose

A brand I had never heard of before starting this trial.  Another woody compost that also had a bit of plastic in it.

Living Green All Purpose

This compost is made in Ireland, and again is a brand I had not heard of before. This is a lovely compost, nice and dark and clearly very well rotted, almost nothing left after sieving!

Miracle Grow Premium All Purpose

Everyone knows miracle grow!  Not a bad compost, but quite fiberous again.

Plantura Universal

Now this is a German compost, very exotic.  Lots of fibre/straw left, not sure what it is. Nothing there that shouldn’t be.

Rocket Gro Fruit & Veg

Another organic compost in the trial, I like the rocket gro liquid feed, so let’s see if the compost is as good.  Very strange compost this, but it is made from a waste product from making green energy apparently, so different is probably to be expected. Excited to see how it gets on.

Westland Multi Purpose With John Innes

A good, affordable compost that I often pick up at the supermarket. It will be interesting to see how it does compared to some of the fancier composts.  Another cheaper compost that is very fiberous and it had quite a large stone in it!

Equigrow Organic

Another one I had never heard of before!  Lovely and dark but does contain quite a bit of wood still, and also a tiny bit of white plastic.

Moorland Gold Potting Compost

Now these last two composts may be a little controversial to some, which is why I have left them until the end. That is because they do contain peat, but let me explain.

The compost is made from silt removed from reservoirs around Manchester’s moors. This silt contains some peat that is naturally washed off the moors. No peat is dug and added to this compost, so it doesn’t have the same negative issues associated with regular peat compost. The peat content is variable, and the owner tells me that it has actually dropped a lot recently due to better moorland management by landowners. That is why I feel it is fair to include it in this trial.  Another excellent compost, barley anything left after sieving at all!

Moorland Gold Multipurpose Compost

Same compost as above, but this is the multipurpose version. Same as above, exceptional compost!

Growing Runner Beans:

Now to test the nutrition in each compost, I will grow some runner beans in them. These will be grown in buckets to keep everything separated. No feed will be added, it will be all down to the composts themselves. Some are organic and some not.

Late June 2023 Update

So the plants have been growing for a few weeks now; it’s time to look in at how they are doing!

  1. B & Q
  2. Westland
  3. Miracle Grow
  4. Doff
  5. Coco Coir
  6. Living Green
  7. Dalefoot Veg
  8. Dalefoot Tomato
  9. Rocket Gro
  10. Moorland Gold Multipurpose
  11. Moorland Gold Potting
  12. Equigrow
  13. Fertile Fibre
  14. Plantura
  15. Harmony Gardens
  16. Grow Moor
  17. Slyvagrow (Late Entry)

One thing that immediately strikes me is the difference in the colour of the runner beans. Some are a nice dark green, whereas others are very yellow. I can only presume this is due to a lack of nitrogen in some composts. There is also a big difference in height from compost to compost, with some reaching the top of the canes while others have barely got going. One thing is for certain going off these results so far: we are going to see big differences between the best and worst performers.

Trial Results:

So, we have one clear winner and that is the Moorland Gold Potting mix.

Next up, we have a load of composts that had very similar results, including Dalefoot Tomato, Growmoor, Daleffot Veg & the regular Moorland Gold. The results were so close on these next four that it doesn’t really matter; any of them could have taken second place.

We had a few no results, which could be anything, the plants seemed to die or never get going. Now, this might be anything to do with the compost and could just be plain bad luck, it’s hard to say with only growing one bucket with each compost. Also, this trial was far from scientific, but I did the best I could as a man with an allotment! So take the results with a pinch of salt, but I tried to be as fair as possible.

With all that said, if you are looking for a peat-free compost, then I highly recommend the Moorland Gold and Dalefoot composts. If you have a lower budget, then the Growmoor compost was excellent, too, but this one isn’t organic like the other two. Also, a shout out to the Slyva Grow compost; this was very late to arrive to me, so I had a massive disadvantage but still did very well. If I got this at the same time then I think it would be right up there with the other composts.

To see the whole blog post on Daniel’s website click here. 

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