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Recipe for a good compost!


Getting up at 7am on a Sunday may not be everybody’s cup of tea. But last Sunday – in the middle of our mini-heatwave (obviously I have no idea if it lasted as this was written over a week ago) – it was glorious.

Birds singing, temperature just fine for potting up plants in preparation for our forthcoming Open Day on June 5. It was whilst I was preparing another mix – knocking out the lumps – that I started thinking about the similarity between my compost mixes and baking. May seem a bit random – and I suppose it was a little early in the day. . .

We all know the basic ingredient for baking is flour, plus maybe sugar, eggs, ‘marge’ – but then it is the ‘extras’ that ensure something extra special is produced. Nothing wrong with a basic cake, but it would need a little more to win the Great British Bake Off.

You may well wonder where I am coming from here.

Multi-purpose compost – this is your basic, all-in-one mix. OK for most things, but your plants are unlikely to be the envy of your neighbours if that is all they have to support them. And, like flours, there are many types of compost for different purposes. You also often get what you pay for!

We use a decent quality multi-purpose compost as a base to our mixes. What we add to it will depend on what we are going to do with it; from sowing seeds or taking cuttings, to planting up large, permanent containers.

Multi-purpose composts are usually based on loam, peat, coir or composted bark. They also contain some composted green waste (yes, made from the stuff you put in your brown bins).

They generally contain very little in the way of plant nutrients, which is fine if you are only using it for propagation, but for anything else you will need to feed after a few weeks. Many are also very prone to drying out.

I was potting up succulents that fine morning. So the recipe included extra loam for stability and lots of extra grit for drainage.

We often add CRF’s, Controlled Release Fertilisers, when we pot up perennials or shrubs. This is a slow release fertiliser which is moisture and temperature dependant so is available to the plant when it is needed.

Hanging baskets will have one that is released over 4-5 months, whilst larger shrubs and trees may have one that can last 12-18 months. We may add other things to our growing media, such as bark, vermiculite or perlite, depending on what we are trying to achieve.

Growing media is just one of the many things our students learn about on our courses. They leave here really understanding how to grow plants to their best. We have just received the exam results from February, and they have done us proud!

The RHS exams are internationally recognised, and passing them is not a piece of cake. Over 95% pass rate, with many achieving Commendations. Well done all.

-Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre).

Bookings now being taken for RHS courses commencing September.

Plant sales Saturdays 10am-4pm, including all the plants named above.

Open Day Sunday, June 5.

www.maneaschoolof gardening.org


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