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Hi, I have a new raised bed, 1m x 1m and 30cm deep.  I plan to use it for courgette/squash plants - should I fill it with a mixture of topsoil and well rotted farmyard manure, or would you advise using 'multi-purpose compost'?


The first, not the second. It will give your plants everything they need and regulate water retention much better.


Thanks Wintersong, that's what my instinct said but garden centre person was very worried when I said that's what I was going to do.  She was so certain that I was doing the wrong thing that I lost faith in my own judgement and wondered if she knew something I didn't 


using just multi purpose compost would be very wrong. 1. the nutrient levels are quite low and don't last long. 2. it is likely to dry out quite easily, turn to dust and blow away. 3. whilst too much water will turn into a sodden sump. Over watering plants is worse than under watering.

I'm no expert, but a decent top soil will add bulk and stability + the well rotted manure is good for water retention and nutrients = awesome veg! Simples.

Not sure about squashes since I've never grown them, but Monty shows exactly how to plant courgettes on this forum and you can't go wrong with Monty

Top soil and manure. Wintersong has said it all really.


My Garden Spade

I did a mix of Veg Compost, Horse Manure and Loam Mix, forked mixed it all. Am pleased with the results this season. Will continue to top up with more manure.

Hi all. Can you give me a quick run down of what I use for what? What's compost for? Is it a soil conditioner? And when would I use it instead of manure? And why do you use compost in pots? Or maybe you shouldn't and that's just what the garden centre says. Confused!

Compost from your compost heap is a soil conditioner.  I use it to dig into beds to improve the structure of the soil, make it more moisture retentive and add nutrients, and mulching with compost has the same effect.   I dig manure in to do the same (slightly different nutrients, depending on the make up of the compost/manure).

Use potting compost to put in pots.  There's soil (loam)-based potting compost, usually described as John Innes Nos 1, 2 and 3 (and seed and cutting composts).  The JI refers to to the level of nutrients, 1 for pricking out seedlings and cuttings, 2 for potting on and 3 for established plants that are going to be in the pot long term.  Then there's peat-based composts and peat-free composts for pots and tubs etc.  Some good, some awful, some so-so.

I would always use loam-based ones if I could afford to.  I use loam-based seed and cutting compost and JI No 3 for potting up large plants into pots (my fig and my apricot will go into No. 3).  Apart from anything else, the added weight stops plants in pots becoming top-heavy. But for potting up my toms, pots of bedding plants etc I use 'compost' - this year I used Levington - I'd rather not use peat-based but the peat;free I tried this year was full of rubbish.

All bagged composts have fertiliser in them, and don't usually need additional fertiliser for the first couple of months after potting.

Raised beds are more or less permanent and will have plants growing in them year after year, so a mixture of topsoil and good manure is more like a permanent flower/veg bed and produces the best results.

When planting a plant or shrub out into a flower bed you are sometimes advised to dig in some compost or add some to the soil around the plant.  For this I use compost from my bin if I have some, but if not some potting compost from a bag is fine.

And then of course there's specialist composts, ericaceous for lime-hating plants, cacti compost for cacti etc, etc 

Dove, that's soo helpful! Thank you. I understand now that Purchased compost is soil-based - makes sense. I've just bought no 3 for when my apple tree arrives - it's going in a pot. And I been wondering what to fill my raised bed - I've got a load of garden soil from when a retaining wall was put in earlier this year, and a raised bed to fill. I'm relieved that I can use ( the better top bits of) that plus some manure. Much appreciated

As I have a clay based soil I added a bag of compost to each of my raised beds along with that mentioned above, as I needed some fibre as well

My soil is clay but top bits are good so I'll just have to be selective from the dug out mound. Plus I'll add a bit of manure and a bit of compost as you suggest - thanks.

Whoops, I've not quite made it clear - some purchased compost is soil-based (described as loam-based compost on the bags) and is used for potting.

Some purchased compost is peat based and can be used for potting or can be added to a bed as a conditioner.

Some purchased compost is peat-free but still not soil-based (made from composted materials with nutrients and other stuff added) and can be used in the same way as the peat-based.

You could make potting compost as the old gardeners did, by combining the compost from your bin with a combination of good quality loam, grit, perlite, in appropriate proportions and adding nutrients such as blood, fish and bone or one of the range of John Innes fertilisers, but your compost would have to be really good and you'd then need to sieve it, and you'd have to have access to good quality loam - nowadays it's easier to buy your compost in bags from the garden centre.


When I fill large pots for annuals, roses etc for the terrace I put manure and soil in the bottom half for substance then I top up with bought compost as then it doesn't grow weeds. Every season when I plant out the annuals I change the top few inches with new compost.

We have a raised bed 3' x 2' x 7ft... we did have two but when we moved took just one with all the soil... anyway we started off with a Lasagne Garden with just layering up like a compost... we did this at the end of the season (autumn) and it was all ready to plant for the spring., we started under straw first (nothing too deep like carrots/beets) but we had brilliant tomatoes, courgetttes and beans..  This year we planted tomatoes (all got blight) but the salad and beans/courgettes were very good... then we just turn it all over give it a bit of manure and the bottom stuff that is now on the top is ready for planting... so this is the first time we have over wintering onions and broad beans.  Its the easiest gardening project we have ever had... just layering up the bed with compost/soil/manure with a top layer of bought compost. like a lasagne... the worms are huge too!

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