A review of a clever peat-free potting compost made from sheep’s wool.
One of the things I hate the most is trying to find a peat-free potting compost. It’s as miserable an experience as shopping for jeans. But this year I was sent two samples of peat-free compost that actually sounded interesting, clever, and really, really sustainable.
Wool compost sounds like the strangest thing ever. It is indeed made partly from sheared sheep’s wool, but it also contains bracken from the Cumbrian hills that the sheep graze, and is 100% peat free. I’ve tried out two different composts from Dalefoot Composts this year on my balcony and in my propagator and here’s what I thought.
Wool compost No1 is a normal potting compost that is supposed to harness wool’s natural properties of water retention. This is especially useful on my balcony as the wind and my forgetfulness tend to combine to make the soil in the containers rather dry. So I was curious to see how this would work out.
The first thing to say is that this doesn’t retain water like peat. But that’s a good thing. I’ve never been a big fan of peaty composts for the simple reason that the soil is harvested from bogs. It is a boggy soil where the water sits around and gets cold and makes the plants miserable. Have you ever noticed how green peaty soil gets on the top and how many little mosses grow on it? I’ve never thought that a good thing for most plants, and it isn’t. This wool compost is lighter. But it also doesn’t seem to shrink in the pots and containers as much as other peat-free alternatives. It is also finer than a lot of peat-free mixes, which can be quite woody and coarse. And these little plug plants that I planted out in the photo above were happy enough to grow nice and big, as below, and are still holding on, even in miserable January. This is important: the compost has sufficient nutrients in it.
The Wool Compost for seeds is even lighter and finer (see picture below). It has been well-composted, which again isn’t always guaranteed in peat-free mixes, some of which tend to sprout fungi, which is a sure-fire way of showing they should have been left to rot for a bit longer before being sold off.
I’ve used this soil in my propagator for early salads, and they have sprouted very happily indeed, and have continued to grow well.
So would I buy this compost? Yes, definitely. I’m very, very pleased with it. And I like the ethos behind Dalefoot Composts too. Well done them for making peat-free pleasureful.