Category Archives: compost

A bar  graph  showing  the  four  types  of  garden  soil  1458511559

What  makes  up  our  soil  1458665504(1)

How to  test  your  soil  ph  1458641989

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Infographic - guide

Three ways of testing the soil ph (1) Chemical



How to make a compost bin for next to nothing

Step (1)

Now  that we  have  the  leaves  falling way  before  their  time  its  time to  plan  head  and  think of  how  we  are  going  to  recycle  them  in  our  garden. I  did  that  for  one  of  clients  a  few  days  ago  and  now  I’m  going  to  show  you  how  I  did  it .

The  first  thing  you  need  is  wooden  crates these  are  free  if  ask  any  hard  ware  store  for  them  as  they  are  used to  stack  bags  of  compost  ect  and  then    disposed  off  when  finished  so  why  not  recycle


Step (2)

Now  we  have  the  bin  set  up    we  can  now  add  our  garden waste  but  wait there  are  few  important thing  to  remember  first and  these  are :-

  1. Leaves  are  not  like  green  waste  like  grass cutting ,weeds  ect. They  are  made  of  a  simple  carbon  all  the  nutriments have  gone  back  into  the  plant  as  it get  dormant  –  there  as  with  all  other  carbon  bio-products  these  will  take  a  little  longer to  rot  down. About  a  year or  two  according  to  the  environment.
  2. You  can  accelerate  the  process  by  first
  •  munching  the  leaves  in  either  a  blower  or  lawn  mower

  • Then  emptying  the  bag  into  the  bins
  • A  tip  i  learnt  from  experience  is  to  moisten  the  leaves  first   with  a  fine  rose  cause  the  fungi  that  break  down  the  leaves  thrive  on  a  wet  well  ventilated  environment
  • If  you  have  spent  mushroom  compost  handy  or  even  toadstools or  mushrooms  growing  in  your  garden add  these  with  your  garden   rubbish  you  got  from  your  bed     –  these  will  also  contain  other  beneficial  organisms  that  will  speed  up  the  decay
  • Make  sure  that  your  bins  are  well  ventilated  by  adding  chipped  clippings  from  your  shrubs  that  you  have  pruned    but  do  not  add  diseased  wood  or  leaves  to  the  pile  these  are  better  burnt  then  added  to  your  pile
  • Leaves  to  avoid  are  large  veined  like  oak and  plane  tree also do  not  put  street  tree  leaves  in  the  pile  as  they can  harbour  toxins  from  pollution

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Are the RHS and Defra BARKING up the wrong tree

Chapter 2

Bark Mulch

What is  Bark  Mulch 

English: Aged mulch of coarse home compost Cat...

 Bark mulch is a byproduct of the forestry industry, making use of the bark stripped off timber that is being milled for lumber such as two-by-fours. Bark and green waste such as wood chips and branches are collected into a huge pile. The material is then put through a chipper to break everything down into similar sized pieces. The chipped green waste is then processed in an aeration system, or compost plant. The material is then partially composted. This begins the decomposition process of the material so that it is already on its way to forming a nutrient rich mulch for gardens and landscapes. Once the composting stage is complete, the bark mulch is processed through a screening plant Bark  mulch comes  in  several  shapes  and  sizes   two  of  the  most  popular  are  the  general  Amenity  mulch  made  from processed  mixed  conifers to  the  rich  small  nuggets  of  the  pine  mulch.


Contractors Turf

Pine bark  mulch .

This  According  to  Malcourt   or neat,small nuggets  giving  you  that  deluxe  and  high performance  and  that  rich reddish  brown.Like  all bark mulches it’s  is  biodegradable  which  mean  over  time  it  will  slowly  rot  down  into  the  soil  to  give  it  fibre  and  carbon.As  there  is  no  nutrients in  the  bark  it self  despite  what  other  tell  you   As  this  pdf  will  tell  you  bellow

Melcourt Soil ameliorates, compost and Topsoil Product Specification Guide

Also  another  thing  to  bare  in  mind  is  that  all  bark  mulches  are  very  acidic –  I  know  from  experience  that  my  clients  call  me  out  when  they  have  the  ‘  Butcher  Squad  ‘ there  words  not  mine  been  cutting  and  chipping  trees  down    and  spreading  the  wood chips  every  where without  knowing  the   consequences .

I  come  over  and  see  plants   dying cause  of  it.  So  if  you  want  to  Pine  bark  Mulch  or Any  Amenity  Mulch    down  think where  you  are  going  to  put  first.

Advantages  of Pine  Bark  Mulch


  • It is like  CocoPeat  it  biodegradable    over  a  period  of  3  yrs
  • Its  not  porous  &  that  means  it  soak  up  moisture   like  a  sponge   and  benefit  the  plants  roots  –  this  can  also  be  a  bad  thing  which  i  will  tell  you  later  on  how  to  work  around  this
  • its  a  natural  local  source  product
  • Pine  Bark  Mulch  because  of  it  colour  its  naturally   appealing
  • Pine Bark  Mulch or  any  mulch  in  fact  deters  slugs  and  snails

Disadvantages of  using Bark  Mulch 

  • Some bark mulches may be toxic to young plants, particularly if the bark is fresh or if it has been improperly stockpiled. Toxins can be leached from bark by heavy watering or evaporated by thorough aeration.Bark mulches are most likely to cause damage to plants if the mulch particles are small, if the mulch is particularly deep, or if high proportions of plant roots are in the surface layer of the soil.
  • If  the  heap  is  still  fresh  ie  in  the  state  of  decomposition then the  nitrates  its  produces  will  kill  of  the  fine  root  hairs or in  other  cases  it  will  cause  nitrogen  rubbery . Best  to  make  sure  that the  pile  is  well  &  fully  decomposed  or  buy  it  from  referable  supplier like  Melcourt
  • Make  sure  that  any  Free  bark  chips  are  free  from  pathogens  first  check  your  source  –  although  you  might  get  along  with  your  neighbour  or  arbour the  wood  might  pass  the  pathogens  on  to  your  stock.  You  wouldn’t  put  any  wood  chipping  that  came  from  your  tree  that  been  infected  around  your  new  stock  so  why  would  you  do  it  on  your  trees
  1. However  with  this  new  method  of  renewing  the  source  another  way  which  is  called  biochar  –  this  I  will  explain  in  chapter  3

Finally  I  come  to  the    Bark  Compost

Bark Compost

What is bark Compost 

Bark Compost is a renewable resource and is one of the most widely used components in commercial container media, although barks from many other species are also processed for this purpose.Bark particles used in container media generally range in size from dustlike to about 3/8 inch in diameter.




  • Bark lacks the moisture-holding capacity of peat moss, There  fore  its  free draining &  like  Biochar & coir  its  needs  to  pre soaked  for  a bout  a  day
  • As  I  mentioned  above  bark  alone  holds  no  nutriments at  all. So  best  either  mix it  up  with  your  compost  or  buy  it  from  the  store  that  has  it  already  mixed
  • but it can dramatically increase the porosity of a mix.


  •   Bark  cause  of  it  size  when  mixed  with  other  medium  will  increase  the  porousity  of  the  compost
  • It is  biodegrable  &  therefore  old  compost  can  be  put  into  compost  heaps to latter  be  dug  into  the  ground
  • If  its  mixed  with  shredded  leaves  in  autumn  and  placed  in  a  OPEN  compost  container  the  fungi  that  break  down  the  chipping  rot  the  down  the  leaves  too  to  make  leaf  mould  –  The  purpose  of  the  Open  container  is  to  allow  air  flow  threw  the  compost  and  moisture  from  the  rain  or  dew  to  activate  the  heap.

fungi  don’t  need  heat  to  live  only  the  damp  and  wet   conditions  like  a  typical  autumnal  day not  like  grass  cutting  that  need a  dry  condition  to  generate  heat

A successful container   potting medium  must  :-

  •  stable reservoir of moisture and nutrients and remain loose enough to allow for root development ,water movement and the exchange of gases in the root zone.
  • A growing medium must also have a pH (a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a medium) that can support adequate nutrient uptake,
  • Be  virtually  sterile
  • Be  neutral  in  PH  depending  on  the  plant
  • The  Medium  should  supply  a  goog  anchorage  and  support  for  the  roots
  • must  be  heavy  enough  to  allow  anchorage


.If you have a good mix, water will penetrate it quickly and drain freely from the bottom of the pot. When the excess water has drained away, air will fill the large pore spaces, but enough water will be retained in the smaller spaces to provide ample moisture for the plant. In a poor mix, water may be slow to penetrate, the medium will become heavy and waterlogged, and a crust from algae or accumulated salts may form on the surface. Under these conditions, the roots become starved for oxygen, plant growth slows, foliage may begin to yellow, and plants often succumb to root rot.


With  this  taken  on  board  I would  definitely  choose  a  coir  based  compost  cause  with    bark  there  are  so  many  variables  either  you  over  water  or  you  under  water  ect

At  least  Coco  Peat  is  sterile  so  there  less  chance  of  getting  soil  borne  diseases  than  bark  si  there  a  less  thing  to  worry  about .  Off  couse  its  got  to  mixed and  soaked  before  hand   for  it  be  any  benefit

Well  thats  My  say  what  yours


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” For peat sake choose another compost ”

Have you  ever been confused on what to buy now since the Department of Environment  Food & Rural  Affairs ie DEFRA along with the Royal Horticultural society  are  calling  out  to  us  gardeners  &  Horticulturist

For  Peat sake Choose  another  compost

Well  I’m  here  to  ease  your  worries  as  I  have  done  extensively  researched  each  product  old  and  new. &  what  i   found  is  that  are  at  least  3  known  growing  mediums  available  on  the  market today .

So what  are they?

Well  lets  start  of  with  one  that  you  know  most  about .And  That  is

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 What is Coir

Coir or  coco peat  is  a  fibrous  material  found  between the  hard shell  and  the  outer coat  of  the  coconut.

And depending  on  the  uses whether it used  for  upholstery or  Horticulture –  the  brown  fibre from  the  ripe  shell  of  coconut  to the  white  fibre  of  the   unripe  shell – for  brushes  ect. Comes  into  two  shape &  forms

raw  coco peat  fibers

raw coco peat fibers

Lets  deal  with  the  Horticultural  and  Environmental   side  of  coir . As   we  are  looking  into  it the  alternatives  of  Peat.

From what I  managed to  source   about coir fibre products is  that  they  come  in  very  shape  and  forms for  example  Coir  logs  Coir  Blankets  for  environmental  problems  like  landslides to biodegradable coir  pots.

Lets  start  with  the ones  we  know  about  first  :-

Pure Coconut Coir

As  I  mentioned  before  the   other alternative  to  peat   which  the  RHS  is  pushing  is  the  use  of  Coco  peat  compost . Made  out  of    brown  coir fibre  found  ” between the  hard shell  and  the  outer coat  of  the  coconut.”

What are its  advantages

  1. Because  its  very  fibrous  its  an  ideal  growing  medium  to  grow  young  seedling   or  mature  plants  as it  promote  good  active  root  growth.
  2. It is  also  a  very  sterile  medium  too  hence  its  use  as disc  and  brushes –  this  means  no  fungi  spores  can  thrive  on  it  and   it  repels diseases
  3. Cause  of  this the  Horticultural  disc  are  ideal  for  mulching around  young  plants .
  4. It  is  very  light  to  carry  as  it    either  comes  in  blocks  which  you  have  to  soak  over  night   if  you  want  to  use  the  next day or  the  loose  form
  5. It is  said  to  repel  slugs  –  this  is  because  of  its  bristly  nature   that  they  don’t  like
  6. Coir  biodegrades  easily

What are  the  Disadvantages 

here are  a  few  disadvantages  that  I  know  by  experience  as  horticulturist   that  because  all coir   fibre products

  1. Is  the  cost  all Horticultural  Coir fibre products esp  Coco peat  are   made  over  seas  the  products  tend  to be  very  higher  than   the  other  compost  on  the  Market.
  2. Although  saying  that  after  the  out  cry  a  few  years  back  about  the  same  thing   Many  top  end  names  have   switched  there  peat  to  coco  peat.And  maybe  now  the  price  has  dropped  to  encourage  buyers   to  switch
  3. Coco peat   tends  to  be  alkaline   –  so  try  and  avoid  putting  it  around   acid  loving  plants
  4. As  I  said  before  coco  peat  blocks  needs  to  pre-soaked  over night  to  allow  you  to  use  it  –  a  bit  of  inconvenience  better  prepare  them before

Other  Coconut Coir  fibre  products  are ;-

Coir Pots


Advantages  of  Coir  Pots

  • These  biodegradable  Coir  Pots  are  ideal  because  of  the  nature  of  the  coir  fibre  products it  allows  the  young  white  tap  roots  to   grow  though    fibre as  you  can  see  from  this  picture
  • This  means  that  plants  can  be  transplanted  straight  outside  or  re-potted  without  putting  the  plant  under  too  much  stress

Disadvantage  of Coir  Pots

From  My  experience  in working  in  my  clients  greenhouse  is  that  :-

  • Coco  peat  is  very  free  draining
  •  Thus    watering  has  to  monitored   carefully    other  wise  the  plants  will  just  wither  &  die  in the  Coir  pots

This  can  be  counter measured  if  the    coir  is  treated  before  hand

  •  And  since  these  are  biodegradable coir  pots  –  be careful  not  to  over water  as  well  as  the  pots  will  disintegrate

These  are  used   as  another  alternative  to  mulching  around  young  plants  especially  Tomatoes  where  it  avoid  splash  back  from  the  soil  where  the  pathogens  live and  gives  the  plant  a  chance   to  grow  .

Made  from  woven  coir  fibre in  a  circular  form  these  can  be  used  in  conjunction  of  these  biodegradable  coir  pots

The  only  disadvantages  is  that you  still  have  to  clear  the  leaf  litter  from  it  for  it  to  have  an  effect  an  example  of  Cocopeat Ring  mats  can  be  seen  below

Coir  Erosion control  products

There  are  two   Erosion    products  that  I  know  off  :-

  • (1)  Coir  logs.


Coir logs, silt checks, dewatering bags and silt fencing. This combination of both synthetic and natural fiber materials helps to address runoff requirements around construction sites, storm drains, streams and inlets

Coir  logs  are biodegradable coconut coir  pith  measuring 1 – 6 metres in  length and  10  –  0 60 Metres  in  length These are  tightly packed in  a  tubular  coir fibre netting  made  from  coir  twine

It’s a  very  efficient  way  of  reducing  water velocity at  the  base  of  slopes ,shoreline & stream  banks.

Coir  Blankets are a biodegradable product designed for long-term erosion control in steep areas and demanding areas . Products are made from several all-natural materials to create erosion control that is effective and biodegradable .

Erosion blanket installation

Erosion blanket installation (Photo credit: Sound Native Plants)

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