Twenty Nine Bags of Compost

Having decided it would be not only an interesting but also a useful exercise to see how many bags of compost I use in a year, I kept all the empty bags together till now. Subscribing to Which? Gardening magazine, I always take advantage of their annual surveys of compost for seed sowing, raising young plants and pots, ensuring I purchase from amongst their best buys. This proved to be particularly useful after the year when it threw up a big variation in compost from one supplier which led to pressure on compost providers to date their compost and ensure outlets were not palming ‘old’ compost off on unsuspecting customers. Sometimes it meant going out of my way to get a particular compost, but it was worth it to avoid the disappointment and self-doubt that comes with a poor product.

It might make sense, therefore, to act on the knowledge that I used 4 75 litre bags for seed sowing and pricking out, and 25 bags  of 40-50 litres for potting on and filling big pots and baskets and purchase as much of it as possible early in the season. One of the Best Buys this year, perhaps surprisingly so, was a compost from Lidl which was not always in stock, meaning either a delay in planting up or an untried alternative. 29 bags sounds a huge amount (where DOES it all go?), but that’s what it was ( and without including the occasional bag of John Innes no 3 for potting up maturer plants) – and they contributed to a reasonably successful year of seed sowing and plant raising, so have proved their worth.

Looking back over the year I can now give some thought to which seeds have been worth growing and which were not really worth the effort (or compost). You will see from the Seed Sowing tab above that I made well over 100 sowings and would like to cut down on this although I do thoroughly enjoy the process of sowing, pricking out and potting on. It is very easy to jump at the opportunity to grow something new and pretty that you have seen online or in a garden or recommended by other bloggers, but not all have grown successfully and I shall drop those I feel have not proved their worth for whatever reason. Among those to be dropped will be Cobaea (masses of foliage but no flowers), Ammi majus (poor germination), Cosmos Dazzler (too tall!), Echinacea (always fails to thrive following germination), any nasturtium that suggests it might be pink or purple  and various things tried for the first time with limited or no success.

Particular successes this year, however, were Helichrysum ‘Bright Rose’, Limonium ‘Purple Attraction’, Alonsoa ‘Salmon Beauty’, (perennial) Verbena rigida ‘Santos Purple’ (not flowered yet) and grasses Lagurus ovatus (Bunny Tails) and Hordeum jubatum (Squirrel Tail), but there are many reliable stalwarts that will continue to be grown every year along with new favourites like these:

With ‘Black Friday’ offers and discounts extending also to plants and seeds, I have already given some thought to new seeds for next year (Chiltern Seeds), extra bulbs (Peter Nyssen) and next season’s ‘bedding plants’ (Brookside) – it saves a few pounds and thus reduces my (exceedingly) large expenditure on the garden!

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24 Responses to Twenty Nine Bags of Compost

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Bags?! Wow. That must be expensive. We are fortunate that it does not cost us anything. However, I do not enjoy collecting the components for it, and shoveling it, and processing it . . . . and so on. It is just sort of there. We make huge piles of it, but I really do not know how much we use, since the entire neighborhood also has access to it. I know some people use more than their gardens need. The soil is already pretty good.

    • Cathy says:

      The average gardener in the UK would buy bags of compost for seed sowing and seasonal pots, Tony, whatever their own garden soil was like. An average bag might cost about £5 and is just one of those garden incidentals that we expect to pay for

  2. An interesting read Cathy. I couldn’t answer the same question but definitely not as many bags as you have. I don’t grow as much as I used to from seed or do as many cuttings or divisions for plant sales as I used to. I have probably used only half a dozen or bags or so this year and still have one unopened bag! I still have some bulbs to plant in pots so that will probably take care of that bag. I wonder what it is about ammi as I have had the same experience. Did you sow hordeum jubatum in the autumn or are you waiting until spring? I’ve purchased a few seeds from Chiltern Seeds earlier today using their ‘Black Friday’ offer 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      I aas pleased to have thought of doing it. I did also work out approx how many bags I would have used for plants for sale, and it was only couple I think. Both grasses were sown in autumn with second sowings in the spring but the autumn ones did better

  3. bcparkison says:

    and Spring will be her before you know it. We just have to wait a little while.

  4. Christina says:

    I didn’t think about spring things from PN, silly me. But I’ve been away this weekend which made Black Friday purchases more difficult, although I did manage to do a Chiltern seed order!

    • Cathy says:

      Oh – so no new tulips then? 😦 With my Chiltern’s order I tried just to keep it to unusual things that I couldn’t get elsewhere as they are still quite expensive with the 25% off! I haven’t finished my bedding plants order from Brookside yet but I have till the end of November to do that. Hope you had a good weekend – we are away this next w/e so I shall probably have to prepare my vase on Thursday!

  5. Ali says:

    That’s really interesting, Cathy. I might keep a count next year. I tend to use multipurpose for everything. You are right, there is variation in quality. My pots of dahlias did really badly this year and I wondered if it was the compost.

    • Cathy says:

      It would be such a shame if the compost was what determined the success or failure of things in our garden – there will always be some variation as it is a natural product but Which? helps by comparing bags bought across the country at different locations

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    No wonder your plants do so well. I don’t know that we even have compost in a bag available around here. I was to order it on line it would cost a fortune in shipping. Sigh~~ I will have to look into this next year.

    • Cathy says:

      When we talk about ‘compost’ in this context we mean a growing medium, not a soil additive, and it is very much the norm here in the UK for sowing and pots. So it would not be readily available in the US? Garden centres also sell bags of farmyard manure, but we could also get this from local stables. All sorts of soil and mulches are available online for bulk delivery

  7. Alison C says:

    You are very good at keeping records! I need to get better at that next year. It’s amazing where all the compost goes but I’m always surprised at how much it can take to fill a pot. It’s a good idea to give up on things which are not working for you too. I tend to keep on trying which is probably daft. I am finding Ammi germinating in the garden now so you might find that too unless you cut all the seed heads. Some things are so temperamental! I have a number of pots of seeds outside now which will probably never germinate but just might after a bit of cold. I bought a large number of seeds in the Black Friday sales but saved a good deal so I’m happy.

    • Cathy says:

      I have found that with self seeders (of all sorts) they tend not to appear the next year but instead sometime after that. I am not bothered by giving up ammi majus though because I actually find other umbellifers more attractive! Glad to hear you got lots of bargains on BF! Most of my seeds are bought from eBay and are a good price to begin with so I will sort through what I need/want in due course on a too-wet-or-cold-to-be-gardening day! I am never sure when to give up on non-germinators either, but perhaps shoving them outside and forgetting about them is a good idea…

  8. Cathy those bags do not exist in Spain. I had never seen or heard of them. So they are filled with compost (garden soil mixed with a little compost) and seeds can be planted but the bag gets into the greenhouse or a cold frame, is that right? If you clarify it, it would do me a great favor. Thanks Cathy. Greetings from Margarita.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, the bags vary and could be peat based or based on recycled green waste or garden soil, with or without additives. We would use it from the bags to fill seed trays or pots but you can also buy ‘grow bags’, which are designed to be planted directly into, particularly with tomatoes or other greenhouse crops. Is it very much a British thing, do you think?

      • Not at all. Cathy, I think it’s a great thing because you keep the bags from one year to the next and you can give them many uses. Thank you very much for your kindness in explaining the subject of the bags so well. Grateful. Greetings from Margarita.

  9. Hi Cathy
    If you have the space you could have a ton bag delivered of multipurpose, it’s much cheaper than those individual bags. Seed compost? I think you’ll have to keep buying the bags. Interesting exercise. I avoided Black Friday purchasing of any kind

  10. Brian Skeys says:

    I would be afraid to add up my compost buy let alone total garden spend. Our local HPS did a deal with a compost supplier, I know I bought 50 from them and more from others!

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