Tag Archives: seed

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 ]

Real threat to seed supplies

There have been several items on the net about the monopoly that biotech (GM) companies have on the supply of seeds. They have been buying up seed companies for many years with the intention of controlling the supply of seeds, GM and non-GM, across the world. See articles here and here.

There have also been many cases of legal action taken against farmers who have been accused of saving seed from GM crops. Biotech companies have argued that they have found GM plants growing on farms who have not bought GM seeds therefore they must have been obtained illegally. The idea that plants cross pollinate and that bird distribute seeds has been denied; talk about rewriting science!

What is really alarming are the attempts to monopolise seed supplies. For gardeners the answer is relatively simple, use open pollinated varieties (not hybrids/F1s) and save your own seed. Not only will that ensure a year on year supply but it will also keep older varieties alive.

International seed saving institute Information on how to save seed for many varities
Seedsavers An Australian based seed saving network
Farmer seed saving A publication from garden Organic’s international dept.
Plants for the planet BGCI is an international organisation that exists to ensure the world-wide conservation of threatened plants.
Virtual seeds The virtual seeds site
Save Our Seeds Institute of science in society – science society sustinability