Peat Free Compost Trial 2017, Growing Carrots

Contents

Why Use Peat Free Compost?

Peatlands are extraordinary environments, which cover just 2-3% of the planet’s surface.  These scarce ecosystems are also very fragile, they are dependent on sufficient moisture levels being available, and they require a slightly cooler temperature range to allow the necessary sphagnum moss, which slowly forms peat, to grow, flourish, and reproduce.  Peat bogs can increase at a rate of one millimetre per year if the desired conditions are present.  If the optimum conditions are not experienced, then new peat will not form.  Peatlands are not areas that can simply be replaced if and when we choose, they are precious environments which need our respect and protection.  Natural peatlands are home to interesting and exciting plants, including carnivorous plants, which have evolved and adapted over many years to flourish in this specific habitat.

It terrifies me to think of our destruction of our planet, my heart aches for the beautiful ecosystems, environments, plants, and animals that have been lost or damaged as a consequence of human action and interference.  I want to do all I can to protect our natural world.

I understand that we each want to grow our plants as well and as beautifully as possible.  I also know from experience that every peat free compost is not created equally, far from it in fact, as the results of this trial demonstrate.

I understand that for gardeners to give up using peat based composts, they will need to be able to easily source top quality peat free growing mediums, so that gardeners can happily and confidently switch to purchasing peat free composts.  I understand that if a gardener’s first experience of peat free compost is a negative one, then they may well be deterred from trying peat free compost again.  With these thoughts in mind I have conducted this Peat Free Compost Trial and other Peat Free Compost Trials, to enable my readers to find the best peat free composts available.

Compost Labelling

I must clarify that if you’re looking to purchase a compost which does not contain any peat in its composition, then you need to look for a compost which is explicitly labelled as ‘Peat Free’.  The packaging, labelling, and descriptions displayed on compost bags can at times be confusing.  With a cursory glance it could be easy to mistake a peat based compost for a peat free compost, and a compost may appear to be more environmentally friendly than it actually is.  All of the composts that featured in this trial are 100% peat free.

This pretty leaf was produced by a Carrot ‘Oxheart’ plant grown in Wyevale Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Trialled Peat Free Composts

Each of the composts I chose for this trial were purchased at the same time, so as to avoid using old composts, which might have been depleted of nutrients, and to ensure a fair trial of every compost.

I chose the following peat free composts and compost blends for my trial:

Carrot Seeds

The Carrot ‘Oxheart’ seeds that I used for this Compost Trial were purchased from the Rob Smith Range of seeds at Dobies.

For this Compost Trial, I opted to sow seeds of Carrot ‘Oxheart’.  These seeds are from the Rob Smith Heritage Range at Dobies.  ‘Oxheart’ is an old French carrot, which produces carrots that are short, but stocky and so are ideal for growing in containers.  If you’d like to try these carrots yourself, sow your carrot seeds from March until July, but for the best results, sow your carrot seeds during March and April – I sowed my seeds later, as I needed to wait for another trial to finish before I could start this one!

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ seeds.

2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots

I started this 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial on Sunday 9th July 2017, when eight Carrot ‘Oxheart’ seeds were sown in containers filled with each of the aforementioned compost.

After sowing, each container was covered with some enviromesh to protect the plants from carrot fly, which is also known by its scientific name of Psila rosae.  The enviromesh was secured in place around each container with garden twine.

All of the containers used in my Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots were covered with enviromesh, which was secured in place with garden twine, to prevent carrot flies from laying their eggs near the plants.

Each container of compost experienced the same conditions.  The carrot plants were observed as they grew, and the results were monitored and recorded.

Irrigation

The Carrot ‘Oxheart’ plants that were grown for this 2017 Compost Trial were almost entirely watered by the rain.  All of the Carrot ‘Oxheart’ plants that were grown for this Compost Trial experienced the same conditions, at every stage of the trial.

Growing Carrot ‘Oxheart’ in Containers

In the following photographs, you can see the differences between the carrot plants that were grown in each of the trialled composts.

B&Q Verve Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in B&Q Verve Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in B&Q Verve Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Dalefoot Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost for Vegetables & Salads, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost for Vegetables & Salads, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

50/50 Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart grown in containers, in a 50/50 blend of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart grown in containers, in a 50/50 blend of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

50/50 Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers, filled with a 50/50 blend of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers, filled with a 50/50 blend of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Miracle-Gro Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Miracle-Gro Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Miracle-Gro Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Sylva Grow Sustainable Growing Media

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ was grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. Carrot seeds were sown in Sylva Grow Sustainable Growing Media although the seeds did not germinate. Pictured on the 15th October 2017, during my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ was grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. Carrot seeds were sown in Sylva Grow Sustainable Growing Media although the seeds did not germinate. Pictured on the 19th November 2017, during my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

Wyevale Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Wyevale Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 15th October 2017.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’ grown in containers for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial. These carrots were grown in Wyevale Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost. for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots. Pictured on the 19th November 2017.

 

Pests and Diseases

Carrot Fly

Carrot fly, also known by its scientific name of Psila rosae, is a serious pest of carrots.  You’re unlikely to notice a carrot fly in your garden, or at your allotment, it’s the damage caused by the fly’s larvae, when damaged, tunnelled, eaten, and often discoloured, unappetising, and most likely, unusable carrot roots are harvested, which is the often the first indicator to a gardener that a carrot fly has ever visited their plants.

The carrot fly lays its eggs in the soil, close to carrot or other larval food plants.  The eggs hatch into larvae, these larvae resemble very small, thin maggots, which burrow and tunnel into the carrot’s shoulder – the broadest part of the carrot roots.  This part of the carrot is closest to the soil’s surface, the carrot’s shoulders also contain a greater amount of food and are easier for the carrot fly larvae to reach first, but if carrot fly larvae have reached a carrot, the larvae and their associated damage is usually found all through every part of that carrot!  The carrot fly larvae feed on the carrots, undisturbed and hidden, protected by the soil above.  When the carrot fly larvae has grown large enough, it will pupate in the soil.  Once the metamorphosis is complete and the timing is right, the adult carrot fly will emerge from its pupa.  The newly emerged carrot fly will look for a mate; after mating the female carrot fly will then lay her eggs close to larval food plants – repeating the cycle again.

There are at least two generations of carrot fly eggs laid in a year, often three generations of carrot fly larvae are laid over a year.  Carrot fly survive the winter in the soil, either as a developing larvae among the roots of abandoned carrot or other food plants, or they over winter as a pupa in the soil, ready to emerge when the weather warms up in the spring.

The carrot fly is so called due to the severity of the damage the fly’s larvae causes to carrots.  Carrot fly is most associated with carrots, but this insect’s larvae also feed on parsnips, celery, celeriac, and parsley, causing significant damage to these crops too.

Signs of carrot fly larvae

Carrot plants whose roots are under attack from carrot fly larvae often display a bronzed coloured foliage, or a reddish tinge to their leaves.  When severe infestations are present the leaves become distorted, and the plants will show clear signs of being under stress.  The carrot leaves may turn from bronze to yellow in colour, the carrot leaves may be much smaller in size as the plant’s energy is sapped by the damage the carrot fly larvae is causing the plant’s roots.  Naturally, where severe infestations of carrot fly larvae occur, the carrot plants may die.  Even if the carrot plants do survive a severe infestation, the carrots will be unusable.

Carrots that have been damaged by carrot fly may have the larvae still encased inside the carrots, happily eating away inside, as you harvest your carrots!  The idea of eating carrots filled with alive or dead carrot fly larvae, which look like a cross between a maggot and a worm in their appearance is not very appetising!  If your carrots have been damaged by the carrot fly larvae, if you have any seemingly undamaged carrots remaining, you may wish to inspect your carrots thoroughly before eating.  Damaged carrot roots will not store or keep.

Avoiding carrot fly during my trial

For this Compost Trial: Growing Carrots, I covered all of the trial containers with enviromesh immediately after sowing my carrot seeds; the enviromesh was tied securely around the trial containers using garden twine.  The only time I removed this protective covering was to take the photographs that you can see above, and to harvest my carrots.  I avoided any encounters with carrot fly due to the protection provided the enviromesh I used.  Consequently none of the carrots grown for this Compost Trial: Growing Carrots were damaged by carrot fly larvae.

All of the containers used in my Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots were covered with enviromesh, which was secured in place with garden twine, to prevent carrot flies from laying their eggs near the plants.

Protecting carrots from carrot fly

The carrot fly has an acute sense of smell, it can smell the fragrance of carrots, and its larvae’s other food plants, from far away.  Once the carrot fly has detected the scent of carrots, it will then fly towards the plants to lay its eggs.  If you sow your carrot seeds thinly, to avoid the need to thin your carrots, then you will help to protect your carrot plants, as the act of thinning the carrots, simply touching or brushing the carrot leaves and pulling the carrots up out of the ground releases the carrots’ fragrance and so attracts the carrot fly.

Sowing carrot seed thinly is a cost effective method of sowing your seeds, as each seed has a greater chance to develop.  If you sow your seed thinly, you can still enjoy baby carrots – you can harvest your carrots at whatever size you choose.  But If you sow your carrot seed thinly and you don’t get time to harvest the baby carrots, then your carrots will have the space they require to grow larger in size.  Thinly sown carrots will not be competing for nutrients and water etc so these carrots will develop a fuller flavour with a better texture.  Whereas if you don’t thin and harvest your thickly sown carrots at the optimum time, you will have a congested tangle of dry, thin, straggly and less tasty roots!  When you sow carrot seed very thickly some seed will always be wasted.

Intercropping

One method to protect your plants from carrot fly is to grow one row of carrots, in between two, four, six, or more rows of onions, or another strong smelling vegetable – not celeriac, celery, parsnips, or parsley – obviously – as these attract carrot fly and are larval food plants too!  Or to grow mixed rows of carrots and onions.

This method of sowing carrots with onions for protection – to attempt to mask the scent of the carrots with the aroma of the onion plants – to protect carrot plants from carrot fly does not come with a guarantee – many carrot flies will still find carrots that are grown using this method!  There are other drawbacks – growing this number of onions may not fit into your sowing plan.  This method will be no good whatsoever if you don’t want to grow onions as well as carrots!

Carrot fly resistant carrot varieties

There are carrot fly resistant carrot seeds available, but in my trials to date these have not been 100% successful.  I also found that the carrot fly resistant carrots were not as good tasting as I had hoped for.

Carrot fly traps

Orange coloured sticky traps, which can be attached to poles or stakes placed in amongst carrot plants can be used to catch carrot fly.  You may catch a carrot fly in your trap, but if you caught the fly after it had mated or laid its eggs, then your carrots may still be under attack!  These traps let you know that carrot fly have visited your plants, as I am sure that the traps will catch some of the carrot flies, but these traps certainly will not guarantee that your carrots will be free from carrot fly larvae.

I also have concerns about the other insects that they may attract and kill unnecessarily, so I wouldn’t use these traps myself.  It is said that by securing this type of trap at a downwards facing angle that you will trap more carrot flies and less beneficial insects.  Naturally these traps will become less effective over time and will need replacing.

Nematodes for carrot fly

There are microscopic nematodes that you can use, which you water onto the soil around your carrot plants using a watering can.  The nematodes first need to find the carrot fly larvae, once they find a larvae, the nematodes enter the carrot fly larvae, killing the carrot fly larvae as they do so.  Whilst inside the carrot fly larvae, the microscopic nematodes reproduce, and their young eat the bodies of the carrot fly larvae they developed inside, these newly produced nematodes then go on to target the next generation of carrot fly larvae.

If you wish to use nematodes to treat carrot fly, it’s important to make sure that you only use the nematodes only when temperatures are above 10C (50F).  Apply carrot fly nematodes  from April onwards, on a dull, over cast day.  Before you apply your nematodes, you must first ensure that your soil is very moist, don’t be tempted to skip this step or the nematodes won’t be able to move through the soil to reach the larvae, and the effectiveness of your application will be restricted.

When your soil is ready and has been watered, water your nematodes evenly onto the soil using a watering can.  You will need to ensure that the soil stays moist throughout the treatment period, to allow the nematodes to move freely in the soil, to give them a greater chance of making contact with any carrot fly larvae present in the soil.

If you’re ordering nematodes, be mindful that the nematodes are best used as soon as possible after purchase.  If you cannot apply your nematodes right away, you can store them in the fridge, or in a cool place for a short time.  Repeat applications are required.

Importance of Crop rotation

If you have encountered carrot fly and your carrot crop was damaged, it’s important to practise crop rotation: do not sow carrot, parsnips, or sow or plant parsley, celeriac, celery, or herbs, in the area where your carrots were growing.  It’s even more important to practice crop rotation after harvesting carrot fly damaged carrots, to avoid providing an instant food source for any larvae that are still present in the soil and to avoid any pupating carrot flies.  Instead sow something completely unrelated, something different, such as: peas, beans, courgettes, raspberries, strawberries, cut flowers etc – don’t forget to ensure that you sow an appropriate vegetable, flower, or fruit for the time of year that you’re sowing in.

Covering your carrots to protect your plants from carrot fly

The best way to avoid carrot fly and to guarantee that you’ll have undamaged carrots is to cover your crop entirely.   Container grow carrots are easily covered with enviromesh, which can be secured around the container using twine, as I have done for this Compost Trial.

For soil sown carrots, you can protect these plants using enviromesh: create a barrier using the environmesh to protect your plants, to ensure that the carrot fly cannot access the soil near your plants to lay her eggs.  You will need a complete protection around and over your plants to guarantee your carrots’ safety!  Bury the enviromesh under the soil for 10cm (4inches) around your bed or row.  Ensure you have sufficient enviromesh – in my experience you always need more than you expect!  Don’t forget to leave room for the carrot’s foliage to develop – you don’t want to pin your plants to the ground with your protection!  You can use willow stems pushed into the soil over your row to form a hoop to drape your enviromesh over, allowing room for your carrot plants’ foliage and optimum air circulation around your plants.  If you don’t have willow, look for other supple plant stems or use plastic piping in the same manner to create a simple hoop.

Fleece is cheap to purchase but it is not long lasting, it rarely lasts a season when used to cover a container.  I would not recommend fleece for protecting soil sown carrots, as it does not last even a short time when buried in the soil.  I have achieved better results with enviromesh, which is a little more expensive to purchase but is very long lasting.

Barrier protection against carrot fly

Many gardeners will tell you that as carrot fly are a low flying fly you only need to erect a low barrier around the edge of your bed, row, or allotment, to protect your carrots.  Indeed, this can be a very successful method of protecting your carrots, but to guarantee your carrots are protected from carrot flies and their larvae, I would advise you to cover your carrot plants thoroughly.

It is true, carrot flies do not need to be a high flying fly (as it were!) as carrots grow at ground level, so carrot flies have evolved to be low flying and tend to fly only in the area from the ground and up to 60cm (24 inches) in height.  So, the theory is that you only need a low, unbroken barrier, buried in the ground, up to about 70cm (28 inches) in height around the four sides of your carrot rows, to form a complete rectangle, square, circle, etc -depending on the shape of your bed.

All of the containers used in my Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots were covered with enviromesh, which was secured in place with garden twine, to prevent carrot flies from laying their eggs near the plants.

Many gardeners grow carrots in containers that are over 60cm (24 inches) in height and avoid carrot fly, but not everyone is so lucky – some gardeners have experienced problems with carrots fly larvae still managing to damage their container grown carrots.  It is so easy and quick to tie some enviromesh around a container, so I’d always rather be safe than sorry.

If you are gardening on an allotment site, I would advise you to cover all of your carrot plants with enviromesh, as winds can lift the flies higher, so although this method works effectively for a number of gardeners, it’s not guaranteed – the carrot flies can occasionally get in and damage can occur.  The best way to be certain of avoiding carrot fly is to thoroughly cover your plants.

Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails were seen frequently during the period that this Compost Trial was conducted.  No methods or steps were taken to discourage slugs or snails from climbing the trial pots.  No slug or snail deterrents were used.  Any slugs or snails that were seen, including this one that you see pictured below, were left alone.  Despite this none of the carrots grown for this Compost Trial: Growing Carrots were damaged by slugs or snails.

Cornu aspersum, also known as the garden snail, pictured on one of the containers used for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

If you’re interested in protecting your plants from slugs and snails, you may be interested to read the results of my Slug and Snail Trial here.

A snail pictured on one of the containers used for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Compost Costs

The price of the composts I have trialled for this 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots vary greatly.  The following compost costs given in this Compost Trial Report reflect the prices of all of the trialled composts at the time (2017) when these composts were ordered or purchased for this Compost Trial.

When comparing the trialled composts and their cost when purchasing one bag, the most expensive composts that featured in this trial were produced by Dalefoot Composts, their products cost 53 pence/litre.  The cheapest compost per litre for one bag was the B&Q Verve Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, which cost 8 pence/litre.

However, these prices apply when a customer purchases a single bag of compost at a time; it’s worth remembering that the price for some of the more expensive (usually mail-order) composts drops when you buy in bulk.  If you buy 5 or 10 bags of Dalefoot Compost, for example, the price per litre drops by 25%, from 53p/litre to 40p/litre.  When ordering compost you can make substantial savings by joining together with other gardeners, fellow allotment holders, friends, family, or neighbours, and making a bulk order of compost which is delivered to one address.

Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost

In this 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots, I have used Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost both in its neat form, and I have used this concentrated compost diluted, mixed in a 50:50 ratio with some of the other trialled composts.

Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost is a concentrated compost, made of a powerful blend of ingredients, which is designed to be mixed with spent compost to create a viable growing medium.  When diluted with spent compost, which is how this compost was designed to be used, a bag of Dalefoot Double Strength Compost becomes very good value indeed.  I have found in previous Compost Trials, that the plants that were grown in a mixture of spent compost and Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost performed as well, if not better than the plants which are grown in this compost when its used in its neat form.

During this 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots, I used Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost diluted 50:50 with Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, and again with Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost.  Both of these compost blends performed well, with the blend of Dalefoot Compost Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost blend coming in second place for this Compost Trial:Growing Carrots.  The blend of Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost was placed in joint fourth position.  Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost came in ninth position when used in its neat form, without the addition of Dalefoot Double Strength, and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost came in seventh position without the addition of the Dalefoot Double Strength, so the addition of Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost delivered a marked increase in performance for both composts, delivering extra nutrients and increased moisture retention to both of these compost blends.

Compost deliveries

Although the mail-order composts featured in this trial have generally proved themselves to be of better quality (in terms of harvest achieved – see the results below), cost is one factor where the mail order composts can’t compete with the more widely available brands such as Miracle-Gro and Westland.  By virtue of their many local stockists, these garden centre branded composts are available for collection, and so consequently do not incur a delivery fee, making them significantly cheaper – in some cases a quarter of the cost of the more expensive mail-order brands.  However if you require a taxi, or are unable to carry a hefty bag of compost yourself, or simply are short of time, you will appreciate being able to purchase a top quality compost and have it delivered directly to your garden or allotment.  When ordering compost you can make substantial savings by joining together with other gardeners, fellow allotment holders, friends, family, or neighbours, and making a bulk order of compost which is delivered to one address.

Economising and achieving great results by mixing composts

One way that you can get the best of both worlds – to use a great compost without a great cost – is to mix spent compost with a premium mail-order brand.  For example, in previous Peat Free Compost trials, I have shown that mixing a spent compost, which was unable to sustain plant growth much beyond germination when used alone, with Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost, a concentrated compost made of powerful ingredients that is designed to be used in this manner.  By combining a top quality, concentrated compost formula with your own spent compost you can enjoy excellent growing results and harvests at a greatly reduced cost.

This chart shows the cost of the compost used in my 2018 Peat Free Compost Trial – growing carrots. Although the best performer, Dalefoot Wool Composts are also the most expensive compost in the trial (unless bought in bulk, which reduces the cost-per-litre). However, mixing a less expensive compost, such as Wickes, with the premium Dalefoot Double-Strength Wool compost significantly reduces the cost-per-litre, but still produces excellent results.

Compost Trial Results

On the 19th November 2017, all of the carrots grown for this Compost Trial were harvested.  Here is the harvest of Carrot ‘Oxheart’ from each of the trialled composts:

Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These carrots were grown in Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These carrots were grown in Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These Carrot ‘Oxheart’ were grown in Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Dalefoot Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These Carrot ‘Oxheart’ were grown in Dalefoot Composts Wool Composts for Vegetables & Salads, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots

50/50 Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart. These carrots were grown in a 50/50 blend of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

50/50 Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These carrots were grown in containers, filled with a 50/50 blend of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Miracle-Gro Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These Carrots were grown in Miracle-Gro Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Sylva Grow Sustainable Growing Media

Unfortunately no carrots grew in Sylva Grow Sustainable Growing Media during this 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These carrots were grown in Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These carrots were grown in Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Wyevale Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost

Carrot ‘Oxheart’. These carrots were grown in Wyevale Peat Free Multi Purpose Compost for my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Harvest Results

Here are the results of my 2017 Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Carrot ‘Oxheart’, grown for my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.
Here are the results of my 2017 Compost Trial. This chart shows the weight, in grams, of the carrots harvested from each container of compost.
Here are the results of my 2017 Compost Trial. This chart shows the weight, in grams, of the carrots harvested from each container of compost.

Final Compost Rankings

Compost Trial Conclusions​​

Rank Compost Type Conclusions

1

Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost came first in this Compost Trial: Growing Carrots, producing the greatest harvest of carrots of all the composts used in this trial!  Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost is a moisture retentive compost that is very versatile, it can be used to grow vegetables, but is well suited to supporting many different plants, it’s ideal for containers or hanging baskets.

2

In second place, a 50:50 combination of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost and Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost was just behind Dalefoot Composts Wool Potting Compost, producing the second largest harvest of carrots in this trial.  When used in its neat form, Carbon Gold All Purpose Compost produced a small harvest, whereas when this compost was combined with Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost this compost blend produced a much greater harvest, improving the moisture retention as well as the fertility of the compost.

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In third place, Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost used in its neat form produced a good harvest of carrots, which was just slightly higher than the harvest produced by the fourth placed composts.

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In joint fourth place with Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost for Vegetables & Salads, and just behind Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost, a 50:50 blend of Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost produced a good harvest of carrots.

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In joint fourth place with a 50:50 blend of Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost and Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, and just behind Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost, Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost for Vegetables & Salads produced a good harvest of carrots.

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In fifth place, but a distance behind the fourth placed composts, Wyevale Peat Free Multipurpose Compost produced a small harvest of carrots.

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In joint sixth place with B&Q Verve Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, Miracle-Grow Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost produced a small harvest of carrots.

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In joint sixth place with Miracle-Grow Peat Free All Purpose Enriched Compost, B&Q Verve Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost produced a small harvest of carrots.

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In seventh place, Carbon Gold 100% Peat Free All Purpose Compost produced a few very small carrots.

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In joint ninth position with Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost, Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost produced a number of very tiny carrots.

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In joint ninth position with Westland Gro-Sure Peat Free All Purpose Compost, Wickes Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost,  produced a few very tiny carrots.

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Sadly none of the carrot seeds that were sown in Sylva Grow Sustainable Growing Medium for Passionate Gardeners grew, so no carrots were harvested from this compost, which left Sylva Grow in last place for this Compost Trial: Growing Carrots.

Further Trials

You may be interested in some of the other trials I have conducted.

Compost Trial Reports

To read the results of my 2017 Compost Trial Report: Growing Broad Beans, please click here.

To read the results of my 2017 Compost Trial Report: Growing Calendula, please click here.

To read the results of my 2016 Compost Trial Report: Growing French Beans , please click here.

To read advice on planting up containers, please click here.

Slug and Snail Trials

To read about the most effective methods of protecting your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

Sweet Pea Trial Reports

To read the results of my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2016 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

To read the results of my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

Scented Daffodil Trial Reports

To read the results of my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

Terrarium, Vivarium, and Orchidarium Trials

To see how my Orchidarium was created, please click here.

To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.

To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.

To read how I track the temperature, humidity, and light conditions inside my terrariums, please click here.

Other articles that may interest you…………………..

To see my 2018 Calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales and Swaps, please click here.

To read lots of helpful tips for planting containers, please click here.

To read tips and advice for growing Sweet Peas, please click here.

Other articles you might like:

3 thoughts on “Peat Free Compost Trial 2017, Growing Carrots

  1. Hello Beth, what an informative
    article
    . I would love to use peat free compost but have had very poor results in the past which I must admit
    has put me off. I will certainly try o ne of the wool based com.posts after reading your review. I’m wondering now how they compare in price?

    I

    1. Hello Roz, it’s great to hear from you! I hope this message finds you well. The cheapest compost used in this trial was B&Q Verve Peat Free All Purpose Compost, which was 8p per litre, the most expensive compost was Dalefoot at 53p per litre for one bag of compost, but it’s best to check Dalefoot’s website, as if you buy more compost the price reduces. If you clubbed together with friends, family, or neighbours, and bought a bulk load of compost you could all make a saving. Don’t forget that if you mixed Dalefoot Double Strength Compost with spent compost or garden soil the compost goes a lot further and is even better value and it works just as well, if not better than when it’s used neat. I hope this helps. I have found Dalefoot Composts to be great quality products, I am sure that you’ll have just as good results.

      I am wishing you a great gardening year ahead!

      Warmest wishes, Beth

    2. Hello Roz, it’s great to hear from you! I hope this message finds you well. The cheapest compost used in this trial was B&Q Verve Peat Free All Purpose Compost, which was 8p per litre, the most expensive compost was Dalefoot at 53p per litre for one bag of compost. It’s best to check Dalefoot’s website, as if you buy more compost the price reduces. If you clubbed together with friends, family, or neighbours, and bought a bulk load of compost you could all make a saving. Don’t forget that if you mixed Dalefoot Double Strength Compost with spent compost or garden soil the compost goes a lot further and is even better value, and it works just as well, if not better than when it’s used neat. I hope this helps. I have found Dalefoot Composts to be great quality products, I am sure that you’ll have just as good results using their compost.

      I am wishing you a great gardening year ahead!

      Warmest wishes, Beth

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