Tag Archives: Gardening Which

Telegraph – “Homebase peat-free compost ‘not worth buying’ says Which?”

According to the Telegraph the performance of peat free composts are, to say the least, variable. A recent article reports on testing carried out by gardening Which. The conclusions are that some peat free composts are not worth buying.

The best for seeds were: “…  B&Q Multipurpose, B&Q Sowing and Cutting composts and New Horizon Organic and Peat Free Growbag.” And for small plants “… B&Q Multipurpose, B&Q John Innes No.2 and Westland West + Multi Purpose Compost.”

Bits of ground up plastic coated particle board found in JAB New Horizon in 2009

I have used bags of “New Horizon” for seed sowing for many years with great success. Last year I was alarmed to find what looked like the remains of ground up kitchen units in most bags. There have been other similar reports about not so natural foreign objects in the compost. I have not found anything from the makers (William Sinclair) to explain what happened.

When growing from seed it is really essential to produce strong, vigorous plants as they are more likely to thrive and resist pests and diseases. For that you need good compost either commercial or DIY.

Some people make their own seed compost  mix but to be honest the one time I tried I got severe damping off – a fungal disease that rots the stem where it enters the compost and can fell a whole tray of seedlings over night.

If you are interested then try a mix and see how it performs. Some suggestions: mature leafmould (~ 2 years old) is said to work on its own but can be mixed with sterilised (to avoid damping off)  loam at a ratio of 1:1. Or garden compost, leafmould and sterilised loam at 1:1:1.  [From “Encyclopaedia of Organic Gardening”, p.116, HDRA/Dorling Kindersley, 2001, ISBN 07513 33816 ]

Best tomatoes for hanging baskets

Last week the Daily Telegraph ran an exclusive preview of trials carried out by Gardening Which which to find the best variety of tomato to grow in a hanging basket. Trials like this are interesting but in the end the best variety is the one you like and the one that will grow best where you live so experiment to find what is best for you and your garden.


If you are tempted to have a go then start with one of the popular varieties. For some years I used Tumbler and found it worked well. Great taste and a good yield.

The other good thing about hanging baskets is that you can take them into the greenhouse to keep production going into the autumn. One year we even managed to pick a couple of ripe tomatoes on Christmas day. Do not expect much in the way of flavour as the sun provides the sweetness.

The Telegraph article gives details on how to grow toms in a hanging basket but it is definitely NOT an organic approach. They suggest using water retaining gels and artificial fertiliser, neither of which are ‘organic’.

All this has given me an idea, resurect the self-watering hanging basket and try again this year using home made comfrey liquid as a fertiliser. It should be fun and might even give us some toms right outside the front door.