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Author Topic: Green Ore Compost  (Read 11254 times)

ChrisB

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2016, 10:26:03 AM »
In another older thread here somewhere, there was a discussion about JI compost and, as a result, I now regularly get pallet shipments from Singletons in the Lake District. It's excellent stuff and is used in these parts by many growers and exhibitors.   We split the cost including shipping and it currently works out at less than £4 per 25l bag.  They do a special alpine formula that is much like JI but with a lot more sharp grit in it.  Dunno how far they are willing to ship, but they seem to join forces sometimes with other shippers, and the last lot I got was in a tractor trailer containing one of those giant tires for some sort of plant equipment!
Chris Boulby
Northumberland, England

Yann

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2016, 08:49:09 PM »
I've received 2 sample bags from Growmoor. Well at least 1/3 of the substrat is rubbish (small plastics pieces, ends of branches, 5-8cm fiber pieces, half composted stuff). I sifted the compost : 24Kg gives 15,3Kg of an acceptable soil. The hands stay black after having rubbed on each other and it smell strong.

What to think of these JI 2/3 formulas?  Crusade is raised, looking for another manufacturer  ???

« Last Edit: August 23, 2016, 08:51:03 PM by Yann »
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Lawrence

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2016, 08:08:36 AM »
Hi Yann
As Chris mentioned, Singletons John Innes is superb and made from a nice sandy loam, I haven't found better. The bags I buy I am sure are 33l litres and cost around the £4 mark. Availability is a slight problem, there are no local garden centres that stock it,but he does sell to a lot of allotment society's , so I buy mine from Keighley allotment society. It might be worth giving Keith Singleton a call and see if they do distribute abroad, a very friendly and knowledgable chap, and a superb product

shelagh

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2016, 12:13:04 PM »
We agree. Brian and I get our Singleton's from Ramsbottom Horticultural Society, it's definitely the best.
Shelagh, Bury, Lancs.

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Yann

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #19 on: August 24, 2016, 09:33:40 PM »
Gonna call tomorrow, thanks for your advice.
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David Nicholson

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2016, 04:53:48 PM »
It seems very unlikely that Keith Singleton's compost will be available in Devon but I have to say that the range of John Innes composts available from Otter Nurseries in Devon are good products with a very good loam content but I don't know if they are still using peat in their mixes but I hope they are.

In the past I have usually added one part of multi-purpose compost to my compost mix (John Innes No. 2 or 3) but as this is now so poor quality from all of the manufacturers I've tried I've changed over to using composted bark which itself is variable in quality. I did write to the makers of Levington complaining that their multi-purpose with added John Innes wasn't really compost as I know it. It appeared to me to consist largely of green waste (including bits of plastic, pieces of wood and other un-composted material of whose history I dread to think!) and a large element of coir fibre. No attempt had been made to mill the product to a friable consistency and indeed it was not possible to force it through the widest mesh I have in my garden sieves. Had anyone bought the product in the expectation (surely not an unreasonable one) that they would be able to pot plants in it they would have been sadly disappointed. I wouldn't have used mine as a mulch.

The manufacturer pointed out in their reply that all their bags do say that the 'form' of their compost is variable. I suggested to them an alternative wording "this compost is either rubbish or rubbish" but they didn't take kindly to that! They also failed to understand that the whole point of compost is that it should be friable and well draining and not containing solid objects of any kind and a mass of course fibre.

My view is that the garden public is being robbed blind in having to purchase sub-standard product with no choice in the quality of the product they are buying. All of the manufacturers who's multi-purpose I have tried have been very poor quality and whenever I have complained have blamed the ingredients available (manufacturer speak for 'we are not able to use peat'). Surely it's time, for example, for an organisation such as RHS to do a proper critique naming suppliers and giving the products quality grades?
David Nicholson
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Michael J Campbell

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2016, 05:59:26 PM »
David,what is multi-purpose compost? surely there is no such thing. :) ;D :) ;D :) ;D
 

Paul Cumbleton

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2016, 06:04:49 PM »
David, I could not agree more with you and have also experienced like many others that trying to find a decent compost, especially a John Innes type, is almost impossible these days. I recently tried a Levingtons John Innes and did a basic "shake test" (put a large handful in a container, add water, shake vigorously and let it all settle). It was obvious after settling that it was more than 90% peat (or just possibly some other organic material that floated). The amount of loam was so tiny that it barely covered the bottom of the container, to less than mm depth - I had to use a hand lens to check there was any there at all! I don't know how they have the nerve to call this  John Innes compost or even worse to claim it is "loam based" - I wonder if we could get them under the trades description laws?!! Similarly, I have sometimes bought "topsoil" in a desperate bid to find something that has actually got loam in it, and added grit to make a basic alpine mix. But the problem with most topsoils is that they are are far too fine - almost like dust, and so very difficult to get to drain well no matter how much grit is added.

I have tried the Singleton version of John Innes compost.While it seems to be of good quality as a compost, it is clearly not anywhere near the John Innes formula - a shake test showed it is probably something like 60 to 70% peat, maybe 10% loam and 20% grit.

The pressure to remove or reduce peat and replace it with other materials has led to many problems. By nature, most of these materials vary a lot. So even if you managed to buy a bag of compost that seems to be good, the next time you buy the very same brand it could be awful. Lack of consistency is a major problem for any compost that has composted green waste and the like added. Also, garden centres want to be able to offer the classic "3 bags for £10" deal and to meet this price point, the compost manufacturers vary the exact composition of their mix for nearly every batch, so they can use whatever material happens to be cheapest at that time to enable them to meet the price point. These kind of factors mean that any tests dome by say "Which?" magazine or the RHS are kind of meaningless - they can only tell you how that particular batch of compost they used in their trial performed. That's why a brand can come out top of the test one year but bottom the next. Being forced to list the ingredients and quantities of each on the bag would be a good step forward but the manufacturers strongly resist this idea. What a surprise!

I  have read in the RHS Garden magazine on more than one occasion that these modern composts based on recycled materials etc "are getting better all the time" and strongly encouraging us to use them. The experience of most of us seems to be that this is simply not true - there are all kinds of issues that have simply not yet been solved, consistency being amongst the most important.

The only compost - if you want an organic one, not a soil based one - that I have tried that seems any good and quite consistent from batch to batch is the new Sylvagrow range marketed by Melcourt. These (say Melcourt) are "a mix of composted fine bark, wood fibre (bi-products of sustainably managed British forests) and coir (from a single, known source)."

But if you want a decent loam based mix such as a John Innes......I despair. I simply cannot find one. Not one that actually has a decent amount of good quality loam in it anyway. This means that every year  when we repot our plant collections we are running in effect a big experiment - each year the compost is different and we have no idea how it is going to perform. One truly bad batch could theoretically kill off entire priceless plant collections. We deserve better than this.

Paul

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David Nicholson

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2016, 08:25:50 PM »
Extract below from my email to Scotts Miracle Grow the manufacture of the Levington Brand

"As I understand it you are the owner and manufacturer on the Levington compost brand.

Today I had the misfortune to purchase a bag of your multi-purpose compost with added John Innes. On opening it I found the mix to consist largely of non-specified fibrous material, pieces of wood and other hard pieces of a material I am unable to name. I found no compost as I would know it.

I have been a grower of alpine plants and specialist bulbs for some 40 years so I know my way around compost and what you have supplied certainly wasn't it. For many years I have used multi-purpose compost to add to John Innes No 2 or No 3 composts, together with added sand and grit to provide a mix I use for all my potting needs. Since all current John Innes composts available from large branded companies is absolute rubbish I am lucky to have a brand available from and manufactured by a local independent nursery. I have in the past been able to buy an excellent branded multi-purpose compost from the same source but as this was not available today I bought your product.

I tried to put the material through a sieve in order to be able to add it my other ingredients but gave up in disgust and took the remaining bag to the local tip and disposed of it. I would not have it near my garden even as a mulch.

Given that you are manufacturing a rubbish product it is to me regrettable that you choose to besmirch the good name of 'John Innes'. Although you say on your bag that John Innes has been added I seriously doubt that this is the case and I have taken steps to have a sample of your product tested to see what evidence can be found of this..................."

Extract from their reply:

 Thank you for your recent email from which we were sorry to hear that you have been disappointed following the purchase of Levington Multi Purpose + John Innes Compost.

To comply with the Government’s requirement that we should reduce the amount of peat used in growing composts, we, like other manufacturers, are using non-peat components in all of our standard growing media at varying levels. Coir, composted green waste, wood derived materials, barks and other composted waste products are used as diluents for different peat types and as components of peat-free composts, the very organic nature of these means that the compost will vary in colour and texture.

We do have on the compost bag a section Environmental Information, explaining that consumers may notice a difference in the appearance of our composts so it is clear what we are doing.

Extract from my response to which they chose not to reply!

""Do I take it that Scotts are aware that compost is used for two main purposes. Firstly as a growing medium, more often using pots, and secondly as a soil mulch. For the former the compost would need to be both friable and well-drained. The fact that I was unable to get the contents of the bag I had through a fairly wide sieve to add to my locally bought John Innes No. 2 proves that it was neither friable nor likely to be well-drained. Thus, as a compost it was useless. I have already said that I wouldn't use it as a mulch either.

There is little point in blaming the Government for your company's inability to manufacture a fair quality peat-free product. It is being done and I have seen and used some very good examples. Suffice it to say that the majority of these were produced by small independent nurseries and at prices that were extremely competitive.

I am really not bothered by my compost varying in colour but I am extremely bothered by variances in the texture. Good compost, to do a good job will smell like compost, feel like compost and have the consistency of compost. Three attributes that were completely lacking in what you have produced.

Your compost, I would suggest, comprised largely composted green waste (and this from the very low end of the price spectrum) a mass of coir (hence it lacked the ability to be sieved and would simply coagulate when watered) sawdust, perhaps a little bark and, I dread to think what hides within your phrase "other composted waste products".

Had the contents, whatever they were, been properly milled and sieved in the manufacturing process then they might have at least looked like compost at the end of that process.

Neither can your company hide behind what it says on the bag in the section Environmental Information. It is perfectly clear to me, and to many others, what you are doing. You are bagging cheap materials at the lowest possible processing cost and pretending that this is a "quality" (ie: in your terms 'high revenue')product. Almost a fraud, don't you think?.............""

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Paul, I do take your point, it would be impossible for any organisation to do a test on a 'like-for-like'basis. I think too that manufacturers would easily get round any responsibility if they were required simply to list their ingredients and quantities on their bags.

So where from here? I for one don't feel like just letting the matter drop. I don't like being robbed and I don't feel I'm being given value for money.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2016, 08:29:00 PM by David Nicholson »
David Nicholson
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Paul Cumbleton

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2016, 04:02:46 PM »
Following up on the composition of the Keith Singleton brand of John Innes, I contacted them to ask just what their compost contains, to see if the shake test results described in my previous post were a reasonable estimate. They replied:

 "We use the traditional recipe:
70 parts steam sterilised loam
30 parts sphagnum peat
20 parts sharp washed sand
One exception we use Q4 instead of JI Base which is too unpredictable if the hoof & horn is fine grist. Our Loam is stacked top spit loam with its turf and is layered with added organic horse manure so it is way more fibrous than commonly available.   We get our loam locally and from sources that have not grown crop for at least 5 years. Hence the more fibrous content in your test"


My estimates from the shake test therefore seemed way out. However, although they use the actual traditional formula for their John Innes, including very commendably stacked turves, they stray by adding organic horse manure to the loam. So when they say theu use "70 parts loam" they actually mean "70 parts of loam mixed with horse manure". They do not say how much manure is used, but this significantly increases the amount of organic matter in the mix. While this may not be a bad thing, it does however mean that the amount of true loam (i.e. soil without the organic element) in the mix is quite low and I thus still think the shake test showed the real situation - that only 10% (or at very most 20%) of the mix is soil as we might generally understand that term.
You can tell this just by lifting the bag up - it is much lighter than you would expect from a mix that has loam as the major ingredient.

I don't want to be overly critical however - this is clearly a high quality compost in which many plants would grow very well. But if you want a compost where the major ingredient is loam (of a typical organic matter content) then this compost is not one.

Due to a combination of cost constraints and the need to ameliorate the very sandy loams that many John Innes manufacturers use these days, the organic content of John Innes composts has increased hugely in recent years and the loam content reduced to a small fraction. Virtually none of them can genuinely be described as loam-based composts any more. They are organic based composts with a small amount of added loam. This situation is best illustrated by the fact that  Levingtons now describe John Innes like this: "John Innes compost is predominantly peat based"!! (see https://www.lovethegarden.com/products/growing/levington-john-innes-no2-compost. At least they are being honest - but if John Innes is no longer a loam-based compost then the term becomes kind of meaningless.

Paul
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ian mcdonald

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Re: Green Ore Compost
« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2016, 09:04:17 PM »
I agree with Paul about the lowering of the amount of loam in composts. This may be the reason for the low germination rate of seeds in "seed compost" I have noticed. Some manufacturers seem to think that a large amount of sand is needed for seed composts. Neither is it fair to blame the Governments stance on protecting our rare peatlands for the poor quality of recent compost mixes. The quality of our Environment is necessary for our, and wildlifes sake. It is no use to anyone to destroy our land in the name of "economic recovery" if there is nowhere to grow our food and nowhere for recreational activities. Whose idea was it that destroying our Environment would help the economy to recover? As David points out, the content of many recently produced composts is too course, containing pieces of green waste which have not been composted slowly enough. The use of "green waste" is a good idea if time is taken to produce good quality composts but these days the policy is rush everything and never mind the outcome. Twigs and small branches are included in composts and should have been shredded before composting. One bag of "seed compost" I bought contained mainly large material. I took the bag back to the garden centre and they agreed it was not suitable as seed compost. It was replaced by a finer compost. Come on, Horticultural industry, we know you can do better.

 


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