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As I understand it, the Which best-buy advice refers to B&Q composts tested up until 2011.  I have always used their multipurpose and had good results from it in the past.  I believe they are now selling two types:  the stuff in the old purple bags (which I assume is last year's stock) and the new 'Verve' compost. 

My mother tells me that she read an article about the poor quality of Verve compost - that it contained lumps of wood, pieces of plastic and other rubbish.  I haven't seen the article myself.

I am using purple-bag multipurpose this year and am experiencing variably germination.  Ricinus has been fine (tough enough to overcome anything?) but none of my cosmos has germinated and I planted several trays of it.

Shrinking Violet
Marie Robson wrote (see)

I agree with all the posts and this is a very serious issue. I've tried various local "peat free" composts from a variety of nurseries and garden centres and none of them have performed well. I experienced nearly all of the above problems; seedlings not growing, roots rotting, nasty green slime etc. forming after 2-3 days of sowing seeds/potting up, one batch of compost dried to the consistency of a concrete brick after just 2 days! And it had been well watered!!!

If you're growing fruit and vegetables this is also a health issue - although by the sounds of it no one has had much luck getting their plants to the stage where they can actually harvest the crops.

I reckon this needs to be investigated much further, and it'll take more than tipped out compost on the floors of the DIY sheds, although that's a good start!

Here's an article from the States, and I have this feeling that something similar is going on over here with our compost:

Hello Gardener's World, anybody listening to our cries for help here?

One very frustrated gardener.

I've just read your link, and I think it's interesting, although it covers the problems associated with clopyramid (sp) which has been a problem over here, but more associated with horse manure than with compost per se. I think the problem that horses were eating grass that had been treated, and, since it (the chemical) was not broken down by the horses' digestion, it remained active for some 12 months+.  The problems with compost are more to do with the reduction of peat content and the inclusion of poorly-composted rubbish which is causing so many problems.


Problems with B&Q Multi purpose compost ? YES.

I have lost all my tomatoes, most of my beans (3 sickly looking things left), dahlias and sunflowers potted on into the stuff are turning yellow and look quite ill. There is definitely an issue here.

Anyone use Twitter at all ? Seems it's the only way for things to get noticed nowadays, and maybe a few phone calls to the newspapers too. 


And regarding the peat/peat free issue. It is perfectly possible to make good, balanced and safe peat-free compost - the manufacturers are just being lazy, greedy and downright negligent when they supply the plant-killing rubbish we are faced with at the moment.

Excitable Boy

I bought 3 for £10 56ltr J Arthur Bowers compost from a garden centre recently and was very unimpressed - mouldy, smelly and too risky to use. Our local SPAR shop has 20ltr bags of Dunstons compost for £1.48 and it's really good stuff - even for seeds. If you find a SPAR that doesn't have it ask the manager to get some in for you and they're really helpful. I prefer the smaller bags too - far easier to handle.



Last year I had problems with Levingtons bought from B&Q.  I won't bother to repeat the problems we had with it.  Finally after complaining in the store a technical manager contacted us and offered a £10 voucher for all the losses I had had. Not really recompense for all the plants that failed, though.

Yet larger bags of Levington bought from our local farmers' Co-op was lovely stuff.  Cheaper too.

Sadly, if we want to be 'green' we will have to learn to live with this awful stuff. Lumps of wood, pieces of glass and plastic.


Sadly, if we want to be 'green' we will have to learn to live with this awful stuff. Lumps of wood, pieces of glass and plastic

Sorry but this is abject nonsense. Sustainable or recycled or "green" compost does NOT mean wood, glass, plastic and consequent dead plants. Just the opposite.

This toxic rubbish that is being peddled is more a reflection of a massively ANTI green and ANTI sustainable industry and culture.


Have just looked on the Band Q website-

the Verve compost gets rave reviews-93% would recommend- completely the opposite of the comments on here-which either means all the negative reviews have been removed,  people are not complaining or the results have not filtered through yet.

The trouble is would people blame the compost or themselves??-those without internet access would not be aware of the problems or discussions like these.


The trouble is would people blame the compost or themselves??-those without internet access would not be aware of the problems or discussions like these.

Yes, especially for first time or relative newbie gardeners, they may well be wrongly blaming themselves, or maybe the cold and wet weather. Those of us who've been gardening a while longer are more likely to realise, in all my years I have never had such a wipe-out of seedlings like this.


But, it is the general public that is putting extraneous rubbish in the green bags and waste food bins that gets turned into this rubbish.  Our local tip (aka Civic Amenity site) takes green waste for composting.  People throw in plastic plant pots, greenery in plastic bags, light wooden crates, gravel, noxious weeds, large branches, etc, etc.


I think there are two issues here-If I am buying a bag of recycled green waste compost as a soil improver then you can live with lumpy bits etc but as a growing or sowing medium for plants this is not fit for purpose surely

What people put in their recycling bins is irrelevant -why should that become the gardener's problem?

Peat worked.

For the last couple of years i have been using a multipurpose compost which is called Q4, which can be brought from Taylors Corn Stores.I have not had any problems with this, you sometimes find the odd bit of twig in there but these are minuscule pieces.It is a good quality and was highly recommended by the people down on the allotments as it is good for growing vegetables and flowers in. I find seeds and all other plants thrive in it and would never buy any other. I have set 20 trays of seeds and all have grown and i haven't lost any of my potted on plants.

I am relatively new to gardening, and being disabled and on a tight budget, tend to read any reviews of stuff before I buy - you gardeners seem a very honest and passionate (about gardening!) bunch.  If you look at the most recent reviews on both the B&Q and Wickes websites, all of the RECENT reviews say what complete rubbish this is.

Like I said, I am fairly new to gardening, and trying to raise a lot of things from seed to save money (flowers as well as veggies).  The best results I've had so far are with the Jiffy plugs, where this is a bit of compressed stuff that you add water to, then sow the seed, great in my opinion, as I know when I can see roots, I need to pot these on.  However, the potting on has been a bit hit & miss, the first bag of potting on compost I got was ASDA's own, which was good, the next 3 bags I bought were not as good though.  Next I've gone on to a massive bag of Levington's, which I thought I'd be OK with, but I wouldn't even TRY to sow seeds in this, there are big bits of wire and fairly big twigs in there.  It's OK for potting on, but too coarse for seeds (not that I really know what I'm talking about).

If I hadn't read about how rubbish the b&q and Wickes stuff is, I would have bought it, had everything die, and probably been put off gardening for life.  If anyone wants to start a 'grow your own compost' thread, I'd be really interested.


For sowing seeds I've always used multi-purpose, but have always sieved it before use. I've never been that bothered about whether it's peat free or not. This year I bought 3 bags of Westland with added JI. It wasn't as fluffy as the stuff I've used previously, and has quite a few bits of fibrous stuff in it that I wouldn't be happy to sow into - but as I said previously, I've always riddled potting compost prior to seed sowing anyway.

I've saved the riddled bits to use as a base for stuff that I'm potting on. I haven't found any bits of glass, wood or rubbish in it. If the companies are using council composted green waste as a major constitiuent, and that waste is contaminated with uncompostable waste, then who is responsible?

Where to start... 

Compost which has been stored outside in the wet starts to decompose anaerobically - producing exactly the unpleasant rotted smell many have noted. It also means the compost can start to leach out compounds which are inhospitable or even toxic to plants. Compost bought early this spring may have been left over from the previous autumn and may well have been too old. If I opened a bag of compost and it smelt bad I would take it straight back and complain. No plant will thrive in it. Roots must have air - oxygen - to grow and plenty of it.

Many of the complaint posts here are about soil based and peat based composts too, such as the Levingtons and JI. Also, it's not clear that the opening question referred to a peat-free compost. Multi-purpose composts usually include peat, unless they expressly say peat-free. Many people are surprised by this - they assume that a compost which includes peat would say so clearly, but it's the other way round.

I choose not to use peat because I think it's the right thing to do - as a gardener I want to leave the world a better place, environmentally, if I can. I have grown peat-free for over 10 years and now grow 20,000 plants a year without peat. The phrase I hear murmured most often around the nursery is 'Don't the plants look healthy?'

I use New Horizon peat-free compost for pretty much everything. The retail mix is a little more fibrous than the commercial mix I now get in large bulk bags, but for three years I used the bags. I mix in a bit of horticultural grit sand to give it a bit of 'bite' for potting up. I sieve it for seeds.


Just to add - have never found glass etc. in our commercially bought peat-free compost. We do get it a little plastic in the composted green waste we get direct from the council, but that's very cheap, and just goes onto the garden as mulch. 

Well this explains why my dahlias have all failed and got green mould on the surface. I used the 3 for 10 B & Q mp, can't believe it thought I had done something wrong even though I have followed the same procedures for a good few years. So pleased this thread had been started and going out to buy different MP this weekend, does anyone have advice on which brand to buy. I used B & Q seed compost as well, some seeds have done well but others very bad.

For seed sowing, try a scattering of medium vermiculite or fine grit on the surface of the seed tray. Stops that greening on the surface and 'capping off' where the seed tray gets a crust on it. 

Julie Stoakes wrote (see)

I am relatively new to gardening, and being disabled and on a tight budget, tend to read any reviews of stuff before I buy - you gardeners seem a very honest and passionate (about gardening!) bunch.  If you look at the most recent reviews on both the B&Q and Wickes websites, all of the RECENT reviews say what complete rubbish this is

They don't actually the last six reviews on the B& Q stuff in my link above praises it to the hilt-suspiciously so in my opinion-4 or 5 stars.

Shrinking Violet

Sue Beesley aka Trillium I think?  So you post with serious provenance, having won Gardener of the Year (green with envy!)

I take your comments seriously, but have to report that locally (one GC six miles away and a couple of nurseries within an hour's drive - just) I have to go with what's available.  But I think I'll have a word with the owner who knows just how much patronage she gets from me!  (OH has no idea of my annual spend ) and see if things can't be improved for next year.