Getting the best results from your compost and growing broad beans

Every year I run Compost Trials to discover the best quality peat-free composts on the market.  Dalefoot Composts have produced the top performing composts in all of my Trials, over the past seven years.

One of my favourite products is Dalefoot’s Double Strength Wool Compost, a nutrient rich, organic compost, comprised of natural materials, including bracken and Herdwick sheep’s wool.  This powerful, concentrated compost is naturally water retentive, thanks to the absorbent wool that forms one of this compost’s key ingredients; making this an ideal mulch for sandy or free draining soils.  Spring is the perfect time to apply a mulch to weeded beds and borders.

Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost was designed to be mixed with garden soil or spent compost to create a fertile growing medium.  This compost is not meant to be used neat, it’s too potent to be used in this manner.  Think of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost as the compost equivalent of elderflower cordial; we enjoy superb results mixing cordial with sparkling water, but this product is expensive and unpalatable when used neat.

It’s all very well saying to mix Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost with soil or spent compost, but how much should you use?  Last year, I ran a Compost Trial to discover the effects of adding varying quantities of Dalefoot Double Strength to B&Q Verve Peat Free Multipurpose Compost – a compost that hadn’t performed as successfully in my Trials to date.

The Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ plants that were grown in a compost made from three-parts Dalefoot Double Strength and one-part B&Q Compost, produced 6% more beans (compared to the harvest produced by bean plants grown in neat B&Q Compost).

Things improved when I mixed two-parts of Dalefoot Double Strength to two-parts B&Q Compost; the harvest of broad beans increased by 22% (compared to the harvest achieved by the plants grown in neat B&Q Compost).

However, when I added just one-part Dalefoot Double Strength to three-parts B&Q Compost, this increased the harvest of broad beans by 41% (when compared to the harvest produced by the plants grown in B&Q Compost alone).  A little Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost goes a long way!

Here are some of the Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ seeds that were sown for this Compost Trial. Broad bean seeds are large and easy to handle, so they’re a great choice of vegetable to grow with children or anyone with arthritic hands.

Home-grown broad beans are deliciously sweet; they’re a totally different vegetable to shop-bought beans; I’d encourage you to try them.  February is a great time to sow seeds in pots in sheltered locations; Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ is a superb variety for container gardeners – I purchased my seeds from Chiltern Seeds.

These are some of the pods I harvested from my Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ plants I grew during my Compost Trial. I gathered regular harvests through the summer.

If you’re sowing seeds directly in the soil, remember that heavier soils take longer to warm up in springtime.  Depending on the weather, I sow broad bean seeds in sandy soil from February onwards, but it’s best to hold off sowing seeds in clay soil until March or April.

Broad bean flowers are very decorative; they’re a great source of food for bees. This is Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ in flower.
Broad bean flowers are very popular with bees. These are the large flowers produced by Broad Bean ‘Robin Hood’ flowers; this plant was grown for one of my 2019 Compost Trials.

I’d recommend Broad Bean ‘Dreadnought’, for a slightly earlier harvest and Broad Bean ‘Jubilee Hysor’, which produces pods tightly packed with beans.  Have you grown Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’?  They’re both productive and decorative.

Crimson flowered broad beans have attractive flowers that are an important source of nectar for bees.

This article was first published in the February 2020 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

For more than 20 tips on how to make fantastic compost, please click here.

To see all of my Compost Trials, please click here.

For gardening advice for February, please click here.

For gardening advice for March, please click here.

For gardening advice for April, please click here.

For more gardening advice for mid February to mid March, please click here.

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One thought on “Getting the best results from your compost and growing broad beans

  1. Malcolm Storey

    February 6, 2020 at 9:17am

    Be careful with composted wool. Wool is keratin, like hair and fingernails, and the fungi that decompose it can cause fungal nail infections. Unless it’s been sterilised, at least wear gloves!

    Amused that they claim it’s “double strength”. Compared to what?

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      February 6, 2020 at 9:29am

      Hello Malcolm

      Dalefoot’s Double Strength Compost is a concentrated, nutrient rich compost. It’s designed to be diluted with spent compost or garden soil, instead of being used neat.

      Thanks for the tips – wearing gloves is often a good idea.

      Best wishes

    • Lizzi

      February 7, 2020 at 10:57am

      Hi Malcolm

      Our Double Strength Wool Compost is Double the nutrient content of our Wool Compost for Potting. It is too nutrient-rich to plant directly into which is why we recommend diluting it with spent compost/soil to the ratio you require depending on the hunger of the plants you are growing. The naturally high nutrient content comes from both the wool and bracken which forms the base of our composts.

      The benefits of wool go rather a long way. Wool has been used in gardening for many years because of its hygroscopic properties and slow nitrogen release as it breaks down. During our composting process, the wool is broken down by heat naturally generated from composting, reaching 80 degrees Celsius every other day before it is turned and repeated. This in turn sterilizes the composts. Composts are full of good bacteria, (essential for living soils and growth) so it is advised to always wear gloves when handling. All our composts are tested before they go on sale and are all approved by the Soil Association so our customers can be confident in what they are using.

      If you would like any more information, please visit our website

      Kind regards

      Dalefoot Composts

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