Gardening: Don’t make a mess of your compost job

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It’s planting time! This has to be the busiest time of the year in the ornamental garden, what with spring flowers being removed to make way for what will now provide the colour throughout the summer.

As well as plantings in beds and borders, all manner of containers such as patio pots, window boxes and hanging baskets have to be prepared to accommodate begonias, petunias, lobelia, salvia, French and African marigolds, verbena, tagetes, nemesia, mesembryanthemums (Livingstone daisies), sweet peas, antirrhinums, ageratum, alyssum and impatiens (Busy Lizzies). The list goes on and on and the choice is a personal one.

Having removed the spent spring plants, containers require fresh compost. That said, large containers can have just the top half of soil removed. Old compost can be spread among shrubs and rose beds, even on the vegetable patch, to improve the structure of the soil in these areas of the garden.

When it comes to purchasing fresh compost, this can be a daunting task for the less experienced gardener as there are so many different ones available.

As well as own-brand composts from stores and supermarkets, there are those from national suppliers such as J. Arthur Bower’s Multi-Purpose, Scotts Miracle-Gro All-Purpose, Levington Multi-Purpose and Westland Gro-Save All-Purpose. Some have extra nutrients added that will feed plants for a few months, some with moisture-retaining properties, while others have John Innes added.

But the cheaper bag is not always the best buy and some may contain different amounts, such as 25 litres, 40 litres or 50 litres.

The term multi-purpose means they can be used for planting, potting-on and taking cuttings, as well as filling containers and baskets.

When handling these soil-less composts it is recommended that gloves be worn and, when filling containers, only firm down gently to leave an open medium.

Even though feeding is part ingredients in these products, a soluble feed added to watering throughout the season will keep plants growing well and producing an abundance of flowers.