Every plant breeder, from beginner to green-fingered, has at some point scoured the internet for the best compost. Typical garden soil or mother soil often lacks the nutrients needed for the plants to thrive, and if you are growing on a balcony or even indoors you will definitely need some sort of growing medium to fill your pots. While it is possible to make your own from leftover food and garden waste in a compost bin, it is both labor and time consuming and takes about a year to produce a usable result.

So how do you choose the best compost when you are sowing seeds, repotting young plants, or using it to move established plants? There are many types of compost to choose from, and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Different plants are happier with different compost – and also at different growth stages. To make it less daunting, we’ve put together a quick guide to the different types of compost available, along with our time-tested recommendations. Have fun gardening!

Best compost: at a glance

  • Best compost for sowing seeds: Westland John Innes | Buy now
  • Best multi-purpose compost: Miracle-Gro Performance Organics | Buy now
  • Best light compost: GreenBroker | Buy now
  • Best multi-purpose peat-free compost: B&Q Goodhome | Buy now

How to choose the best compost for you

Which compost do i need?

In short, compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter that releases nutrients that help your plants grow. Organic compost only contains plant material and animal products – this can be animal manure, fish blood or bones – while non-organic compost can also contain manufactured materials such as perlite, vermiculite or rock wool to support drainage and water absorption. Depending on what you’re planting – seeds, houseplants, vegetables, roses, cacti – there are different types of compost that work best.

Multipurpose compost is the best choice for already established plants, although it is reportedly just as beneficial for seed germination and small seedlings too. It’s usually the cheapest option, but it can dry out pretty quickly.

Seed compost is designed to provide the low levels of nutrients needed in the early stages of a plant’s life and may contain additional ingredients to aid germination. It’s fine and light, and usually more expensive than multipurpose.

– Acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons need ericaceous compost that has a lower pH, which means that it will migrate to acidic soil area.

Container compost (sometimes called a pot mix) use for anything you want to keep in one container; mostly indoor plants, occasionally also potted plants outdoors. Lighter in texture than garden compost, it’s not intended to improve the soil around it. To make it even more complicated, there are also many varieties of this potting soil, even if they are in a different area than garden compost!

It is also worth looking into what type of drainage your plants will need. Some like to be planted in pure compost, while others prefer their compost mixed with gravel, sand, or perlite to aid ventilation and prevent their roots from getting soaked.

What’s the problem with peat compost?

Peat, a collection of rotting vegetation and peat moss, has long been used in most types of compost because of its ability to hold water and nutrients. Unfortunately, peat also contains carbon. So when it’s spread around your garden, it quickly converts to carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. Peat is also extracted from peat bogs in the UK and Ireland: these are important habitats for local flora and fauna and are becoming more and more depleted.

Fortunately, gardeners are now flocking to a peat-free alternative, many of which are usually made from a combination of ingredients such as coconut (from coconut shells), wood fiber, and composted tree bark. It pays to actively look for “peat free” on the label of each compost; otherwise it will likely contain some peat.

How much should i spend?

In general, the cost depends on the type of compost and the size of the bag, as it is often cheaper to buy 20 liters instead of five liters. A general rule of thumb for many gardeners is that the cheapest option is the worst quality. However, the price doesn’t always reflect the quality of a compost: sometimes a cheaper brand may actually produce better results.

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The Best Compost To Buy (In 2021)

1. Westland John Innes Seed Sowing Compost: the best compost for sowing seeds

Price: £ 3 for 10L | Buy it now at Wickes

Westland seed-sowing compost has a balanced supply of nutrients that promotes rapid germination and continues to feed seeds and cuttings for the first three weeks of growth. This compost contains a high content of clay as well as added vermiculite to trap moisture around each seed.

With this Westland compost we planted different seeds in some cell shells – tomato, zucchini, cosmos, sugar pea, beetle bean and pumpkin. Most germinated quickly and then continued to grow without problems, while some germinated a little later. The fine texture of the compost feels like sand and doesn’t clump together, making it easy to water. The only problem we found is that it can dry out to a pretty hard crust, but as long as you water regularly it shouldn’t hurt your chances of a seed. You can also lightly break the surface of the compost to prevent crusting. Since every compost can vary from bag to bag, it is worth checking for lumps before filling pots or cells as well.

Buy it now at Wickes

2. Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Compost: the best multi-purpose compost

Price: 10.15 € for 40L | Buy now from Amazon

Miracle-Gro is famous for its universal plant and lawn forage as well as an extensive range of composts. Most of the product range includes chemicals and plastics – but the Performance Organics range does not. This compost is versatile enough to meet all of your planting needs: this version slowly releases nutrients over a period of three months, which is perfect for the summer season. There is some peat in it, but the purely organic content means it is still safe around pets and children.

At £ 10 for 40 liters, Performance Organics compost isn’t the cheapest option, but you pay for brand awareness and the enticing promise that you will “grow twice the organic”.

3. GreenBrokers Organic All Purpose Potting Compost: the best light compost

Price: £ 10 for 20L | Buy now from Amazon

If you are growing plants in a small house or have limited storage space for your garden tools, GreenBrokers has created the perfect solution with this dry compacted compost. It is completely organic, peat-free and made from coconut-coconut, which makes it animal and child-friendly – but the best part is that twenty liters of compost arrive at your doorstep in a package measuring just 18 x 18 x 8 cm. To rehydrate the entire compost pack, simply cut open the top of the bag, add seven liters of lukewarm water and wait five minutes for the compost to absorb all of the water.

This compost appears to be designed to be rehydrated all at once, although some customers have managed to break their bricks in half or into sections and save the rest for future use. There were also some issues with compost stones not expanding fully, but it seems to be related to the water temperature used – just make sure it’s lukewarm or warmer.

Again, this is a pretty expensive option, but it’s well worth it for the storage capabilities. GreenBrokers potting soil is also available in 10L, 20L, 40L and 75L stones.

4. B&Q GoodHome multi-purpose peat-free compost: the best peat-free compost on a budget

Price: £ 4.45 for 20L | Buy now from B&Q

With peat-free composts growing in popularity, B&Q comes up with an affordable option for multipurpose use on the train. B&Q states that this multi-purpose compost helps to reduce the moisture in the soil and that it is nourished for eight weeks after planting – and contains 100% coconut, green compost and composted bark as ingredients.

When we used this compost, it worked very well for potting tomatoes, zucchini, runner beans, and sugar snap peas: all the plants grew quickly and stayed healthy, flowered well, and bore fruit throughout the season. In terms of consistency, however, it’s quite a lumpy compost, and it seems to vary in quality: there are mixed reviews with some customers reporting undecomposed material in their bags and yellowing leaves on their plants. If that happens to you, it could still be used as an inexpensive way to upholster outside beds – and since it comes in 10 liter bags for £ 3.80, 50 liter for £ 5.80 and 100 liter for £ 8 Don’t break the bank if you get a bad batch.

Buy now from B&Q

5. Thompson & Morgan Incredicompost Multipurpose Garden Compost: the best multi-purpose compost on a budget

Price: £ 15 for 70L | Buy now from Amazon

A whopping 70 liters for just £ 15 make Thompson & Morgan’s multipurpose compost a strong budget option. We’re also very grateful for the extra fertilizer feed package that comes with it – once mixed into the compost, this Incredibloom plant feed will boost plant growth year-round, apparently resulting in up to 400% more flowering.

As you’d expect from a multi-purpose compost, it is versatile enough to meet most of your potting needs, especially for seedlings, hanging baskets, and houseplants. It has a neutral pH and low peat content and instead uses 20% excess wood fiber from sawmills as an additional texture ingredient.