5 April 2018 – The perfect growing media  –   David Coop

I do hope that you weren’t one of those people who did not come to the Gardening Club meeting because of the title of this talk!  After all, you might have thought, ‘how can such a subject be interesting?’  In the event over 40 people did take a chance and did not regret their decision.  The speaker, David Coop held our interest for more than an hour

David comes from a scientific background, working now at Elsoms Seeds but spent many years with Westland Horticulture. Here he had participated in and led projects into perfecting the ‘perfect compost’.  This involved growing the same kind of plants in different composts and comparing the results. Pictures of his own beautiful Rutland garden assured us that we could trust his judgement. (He still praises Westland compost as one of the best compost products)

Why do we use compost?  Well, choose wisely and and it will achieve better results than garden soil. Some products may have too much water, not enough nutrients, some may have weeds growing in the compost (yes, it does happen).  Do examine the small print on the bags!  Of course you cannot expect old compost to be as good as fresh compost so go to a garden centre with a good turnover, where the compost is under cover to stop rain damage.  Do remember David’s advice – if you are not happy after opening the bag, complain!  The seller will record your comments and show them to the appropriate salesman when (s)he next visits.  Good firms will take note and take action!

Compost could contain peat, wood fibres, composted bark, grit, sand, fertiliser, anaerobic digestate(?), green waste – clothing, tin foil etc – David assures us that these do not affect the quality of the compost.  Most people prefer compost with  sphagnum peat moss – a very popular soil amendment because of its ability to help sandy soil hold moisture, and helps clay soil loosen up and drain better. The moss grows in wetlands which are now protected.

Research continues apace to find effective peat-free compost which is improving every year.  Westlands are beginning to replace peat with coir, bark or wood fibre. (Did you know that Chinese mattresses are made from coir?) Take care with your own composting attempts – no perennial weeds, lawn clippings please.  Caution is also needed when purchasing compost from non-specialist centres (e.g. recycling centres perhaps) who may, unwittingly, have used compost which contained bindweed and other horrors.

Just as we were getting brain-ache we were given a short informative and amusing quiz with prizes!  A really good meeting – we will invite him again!

Mary Duff (Chair F&TG Club)

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