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Seed sowing compost. Which is cheapest?

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  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,664
    Until  I find  a peat free compost which is at least as good as one with peat, AND at a sensible price, I won't buy it.
    Devon.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,444
    It's really frustrating that peat-free, and even reduced-peat, composts are so variable - and generally not a patch on the peat-based alternatives.  Though Waitrose peat-free compost got 80% in the Gardening Which tests, @Hostafan1 - the best of the peat-free ones they tested this time.  Commercially, coir-based composts are used a lot, but they need much more careful watering than standard peat-based ones - probably easier on a large scale than for us gardeners.
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • PurplerainPurplerain Posts: 1,052
    edited January 2019
    I use John Innes seed sowing compost every year and I just expect seeds to germinate. Price wise it is around £4.00 at my garden centre. Like @cotty1000 I add vermiculite to the mix.
    SW Scotland
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,664
    It's really frustrating that peat-free, and even reduced-peat, composts are so variable - and generally not a patch on the peat-based alternatives.  Though Waitrose peat-free compost got 80% in the Gardening Which tests, @Hostafan1 - the best of the peat-free ones they tested this time.  Commercially, coir-based composts are used a lot, but they need much more careful watering than standard peat-based ones - probably easier on a large scale than for us gardeners.
    I find plant I buy in coir based composts are always drying out which is tricky if you can't plant them immediately
    Devon.
  • PurplerainPurplerain Posts: 1,052
    I gave up with coir. However, I do use it as a cheap soil conditioner from Home Bargains to aerate a slightly clay soil. I would not use it for seeds. They need a good start and having tried it, i would agree that the average gardener would find it tricky if not disappointing.
    SW Scotland
  • SlumSlum Posts: 350
    I've stopped using peat based composts. Yes, they can be effective. Yes, they can be economical to buy. But for me, the true cost is too high. I could not justify looking after my small piece of nature by causing unnecessary damage elsewhere. 

    Last year I used coir for the first time to germinate seeds and grow on. I use capillary matting under the seed trays so drying out is not an issue. Seeds contain enough energy to get themselves to the pricking out stage. If I wanted to keep them in the trays longer I used a very dilute seaweed solution. I found the root growth in coir particularly good.

    This year I will do the same with seeds, ie germinate in coir. I buy big blocks from Ebay cheaply and if I don't want to make up a full block I saw a bit off. To grow them on this coming year I'm going to mix in a cheap peat free green waste compost, garden soil and grit. This was the most successful mix that I used last year. Strong healthy plants and zero peat.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,444
    That's very interesting, @Slum.  Do you add anything to the coir block before sowing seeds?  I guess it would be more difficult to use for very small seeds, unless you can sieve it.  But the lack of nutrients shouldn't really matter... I've successfully germinated seeds in the past in pure sand, after all.  Maybe I'll give your method a try.

    We're lucky enough to be able to buy reclaimed peat here.  It's recovered from the filters of moorland reservoirs, where it appears naturally, unfortunately, due to erosion of the peat moorlands.  I don't know how widely available it is - sold as "Moorland Gold" and packaged by West Riding Organics.  They also make it into seed and potting compost.
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • SlumSlum Posts: 350
    Hi @Liriodendron. Nothing added to coir before sowing seeds and no need to sieve. The first block I tried to use I used way too much water and ended up with a wet sludge. That was chucked on a spare bed. The next one I took it easier with the water and got it right. The coir was light and fluffy with small particles, perfect for seeds. 

    If I'm making the coir up to prick out seedlings into small plugs I use a seaweed solution rather than just water. At this point nutrient demands from a small seedling are fairly low I guess. Going from a small plug to a 9cm pot I'd use a mix as I described above. If the plants were annual bedding I'd all add some controlled release fertiliser into the mix as well to save me the bother of liquid feeding later in the summer. 
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,444
    Thanks, @Slum.   :)
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,664
    Ireland has enough peat to burn millions of tons a year in their power stations: I can live with the guilt of my few bags of compost.
    Devon.
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