Product Review: Dalefoot Seed Compost


I don’t tend to review products as I feel that in order to provide a good review I need to test them properly and I am just too disorganised for that.  I can read a book, consider a plant but testing a product is more challenging.  However, I was rather tempted by the email asking me (some time ago – I told you I was disorganised) if I would consider review a new peat-free seed compost from Dalefoot Composts

Peat-free is one of those subjects that can really divide gardeners.  The alpine plant growers I know through the Alpine Garden Society tend to still rely on John Innes which is peat based.  However, there is a growing movement in horticulture that gardeners should stop their reliance on peat in composts.  I think the attraction of peat based composts is that they are good at retaining moisture whereas the majority of alternatives dry out very quickly and are hard to re-wet.  Personally I don’t have any strong views.  I do use John Innes for my bulbs and alpines and without guilt as I figure the amount I use is so small that it hardly makes an impact and really I would like to see the plant producers change their practice  across the board first.  When it comes to seeds and general potting up I sometimes go for peat free but it generally depends on what is available since there are a number of peat free brands that having used once I have no desire to use again.

Dalefoot Compost was particularly interesting to me since it is made of a combination of bracken and sheeps wool.  The bracken provides a high level of potash which is good for fruiting and flowering and the sheep wool provides nitrogen but also helps with water retention!  Interestingly, according to their website, rhubarb in Yorkshire is grown in wool!

Larkspur seedlings
Larkspur seedlings

I have to admit that I was anticipating a small bag of seed compost probably enough for a seed tray not a full size bag.  Unfortunately life got very busy at this point and it is only recently that I have got around to sowing some perennial seeds and so an opportunity to try out the compost became available.  I was surprised by the very open quality of the compost, I really dislike claggy compost as I feel the germinating seedlings have little chance of pushing through it. I sowed a range of perennials and annuals and  watered them well.  They went in the greenhouse and over the last three weeks, since sowing, I have only had to water them once a week and even then the seed trays haven’t completely dried out – this was very pleasing as I have struggled with before with peat-free compost and with germinating seeds you really don’t want to have the moisture of the compost changing radically.

Today, I was delighted to see that the Larkspur and Cerinthe had started to germinate and look good and strong.

Admittedly the compost is quite  expensive compared to the standard and well-known makes you can get in your local garden centre.  This is a bit of a stumbling block for me but it depends on how much compost you use and what your budget is like.  I suppose it comes down to that old adage ‘You pays your money, you take your choice’. However,  I will definitely consider using this compost again as I really like the texture of it and if peat based compost is going to be withdrawn from the market over the coming years then this would be an excellent alternative.


Author: Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited

11 thoughts on “Product Review: Dalefoot Seed Compost”

  1. Sounds promising – I have read a report about this elsewhere and as you say the cost is likely to put people off although if it is a way of using ‘waste’ resources it has those green credentials to commend it too

    1. Hi Cathy
      Yes it really depends on your priorities doesnt it – whether being green is really important to you or not

  2. It’s really nice to read about potting alternatives. Like you I only use compost with peat in if absolutely necessary. I did an experiment with growing my chillies this yr in peat free compost – the verdict is still out on that one! I think price will have a driving factor in all this but like anything, the more peat free alternatives that are bought the more the price will come down with demand. At the moment it’s just a case of which alternative will dominate the market.

    1. Hi Sophie
      True and I think more will come on the market due to the government’s push to remove peat composts – interesting times

  3. These last 2 years we have tried various peat free,but we have found so much rubbish in these glass ,brick, lumps of wood and plastic, some companys I think are using the garden waste from local waste centres ..this all goes to inhibiting seed germination and plant growth. When we don’t all have room for compost bins it’s difficult to know what to use .

    1. Hi Sue
      I think you are right and there is such a difference in the quality of green waste produced my councils. Ours is pretty good but I know others have a terrible time with plastics etc.

  4. There is soil conditioning compost from herefordshire council can be picked up from the recycling depots. It is only 2 per bag, is lovely black stuff, never any rubbish in it and is better than some of the more expensive garden centre stuff. although not sure if it would be any good at seedlings. worth a punt though. I think you are close enough to pick some up from their Ross site.

    1. Hi PL
      Sounds the same as we get in Malvern, same price and also very good. I can collect it from our dump and get through bags of the stuff!!!!

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