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Has anyone recently used B&Q multi-purpose compost as recommended by "Which". On opening the bag I got a strong smell of raw sewage, and all plants which have been transplanted into the B&Q compost have not shown any root development into the new compost after 2 weeks, in fact I would say less root now than when transplanted. This also goes for Cucumbers, courgettes, butternut squash, peppers and toms. Many tomatoes have died (40 to 50)especially San Marzano, Fiorentino and Big Reds, base of stems and roots had rotted away. Other toms such as Sungold and Sweet Millions have stunted growth and the same lack of root growth but no issues currently at base of stems. I checked the PH and it was 7 which I believe is ok for most crops. 


Gordon.  Yes.  My seedlings (masses of them) are not producing roots and are showing hardly any growth at all over a month.  I've lost a lot.  Some of the potted-on seedlings in the same compost are also doing badly.   

When I opened the bag of Multi-P, it wasn't the usual nice dark moist mix.  It was more rusty and brown.  Because I don't usually buy this specific bag, I assumed it was how their compost was meant to be.  But I have my doubts.  My seedlings are in the same conditions they were last year - but with different compost - so the only thing I can think of which is different this time around is the compost.  I assumed it was something I was doing, or my water.   Everything sown outside is absolutely fine.


I have found the same with B & Q compost and their gro bags. I lost a lot of plants through using it a few years ago and I've never used again. I planted my tomato plants into their grow bags and some of them just died and I hardly had any toms to pick on what I had left. It is better to pay a little more and get good quality compost.

Thank you both for your responses. Naively / foolishly I was fairly confident that as the B&Q compost was "Which Magazine" recommended, it would be fine.  B&Q were not interested when I spoke with there customer services on-line or in-store, I even took them a sample pot /seedling. I guess the B&Q staff I spoke with are not gardeners. Yesterday I re-potted about 200 seedlings out of the B&Q compost into a top brand compost. Fingers crossed. I will probably have some more losses but hopefully will save most of my 2012 seedlings. I let you know how they progress.

No more B&Q gardening products for me. I have learnt a valuable lesson, and as you advised I will pay top money for compost in the future. It's just not worth the risk using cheap stuff ! The difference in price is only £2 - £3 pounds. Thanks again GC

I have a similar problem with tomatoes and cucumbers but in Wicks multi purpose compost.  Geminated OK but only slowly grew on to the first 2 or 3 true leaves and then seemed to have stopped.  I wondered about the compost, they have changed the printing on the bag and now say it is not suitable for seeding?

Also, I have a lot of mould on the compost.  You can only see it on the sides of the peat pots but when you water it raises a small cloud of white powder from the surface.

Have re-sown some tomatoes in a different compost but the mould seems to have spread there as well!


Even with decent brands there is no guarantee.  The manufacturing process for this rubbish and the indifference with which they churn it out is a disgrace, all of the dead and diseased plants you pay the council to take away are shredded and sold back to you.  I now use my own leafmold mixed with my own home sterilised compost though you can use turf-loam, mole hills or even border soil, that is what people used before and look at the gardens they managed to create.  


Tee Gee
Apparently there are two batches of B&Q three for a tenner composts on the market. I found this out as a user on another forum posted a picture of a bag she bought and it is slightly different from the ones I bought. I am guessing that the batch that is giving the problems is old stock and has become contaminated. I have told this lady of the problems I and others are having with this stuff and she is going to trial it and report back to me. Once she does I will reply to this thread. BTW I have lost all the plants I potted up with this c** p including a ??60 collection of Streptocarpus I have bought. When I purchased the Wickes stuff which they declared was not suitable for seed sowing I decided to use the B&Q stuff as a seed compost. The seeds germinated OK but stopped growing on inspection I found that the roots had burned away. When I discovered this I re- pricked out all the seedling that had been started off in the B&Q including dipping them in water to wash off all traces of this dodgy seed compost. So it's fingers crossed that this will work ! To date I have lost over 200 plants and I am not a very happy bunny! Last year I was similarly affected with a compost named " Growell" when I lost over a thousand plant. I am now and the end of my tether with this compost issue. I have gardened for over forty years and I am now thinking of giving it up, trouble is I do not know what I will do in its place. If I thought i would be listened to I would contact my MP and point him to the numerous threads on the net like this but I won't hold my breath if I do. I am totally p****d of of the with blanket decisions these Euro politicians keep coming out with. If only they would ask the users first before they set these laws in stone. If they had asked me for instance I could give them a solution that would save more peat than the current procedures are doing and the users would not have to buy this stuff that is not fit for purpose. I ask the question; what can we Gardeners / users do to alleviate this problem. It would be nice to know your opinions then perhaps we could link the powers that be to this thread. Sorry for the rant but I just had to get this off my chest...Tg
The best way to get them to listen is to contact their press dept / PR team especially as this is an issue appearing on various forums. They will not want their reputations online to be affected - especially Which - and often track this kind of negative conversation. I would suggest a call to the press team of both, mentioning that this is an ongoing, negative conversation amongst gardeners. Contact details available on the press section of both companies' websites... An idea but could work....good luck!
Tee Gee

Thanks for your suggestions Margot

My plan is to search all the forums I have been involved with over the last year or so and get links to the various threads on the issue including this thread.

I had hoped this thread would have brought more response than it has so over the next day or two I will research the subject on line and contact Which,B&Q plus Wickes.

Subject to any response from them, I will also send copies of any correspondence to my MP.

I have even considered sending the same information to MP's throughout the country, as this is not just a local issue, it is national,  so the more MP's that get involved the better (assuming any get involved)

Good idea but don't worry too much about collating all the forums as I think once you flag this GW one as one among many they will have tools to quickly find the rest ( I know this because I work in this area! Boring I know ) even better if Adam or Kate or someone from GW can somehow endorse that this is indeed an issue that will provide added weight.

I thought it was just me having a senior moment, but it seems I am not alone. What really annoyed me was the lack of understanding from B&Q staff and management. As per Tee Gee I have washed this B&Q filth off what was left of the roots and stems, and repotted into a "Petersfield" loam based compost recommended by a small local independant garden centre, all survivors are now making good progress.

This may make you smile a little: 

When I finally realised that the manager of my local B&Q store refused to take the matter at all seriously, I suddenly turned into Victor Meldrew !                                   I bent over to pick up my remaining half bag of compost, but instead of lifting it by the top, I reached a little further and lifted the bag fom the bottom, depositing 60 to 70 litres of compost on B&Q customer services floor. The managers face was a picture! I then calmly, but briskley walked away, to the sound of the manager screaming for my name and address details, which I of course told him politely, (with a little smile on my face), that he could not have. A small victory, but seriously these goods are not fit for purpose, and trading standards should be involved. Thanks all for your comments GC.


This has been very interesting-has anybody had any recent experience of the Homebase compost or even Asda etc-as Wickes and B&Q are out of the mix it seems-these were my first port of calls in recent years-I can forsee a slightly torn bag scenario before purchase


If it's any consolation, the B&Q seed/cutting compost still fine.

I prick things out into JI2 usually. Have got some of the MP, only a small bag, so will take care for what/when I use it. J.

GC wish I had been in the B&Q! Brilliant! Have posted a question to Adam too to see if GW can assist...

haha G.C....wish I had of been there !!!                                                      

Yeah, I've just bought a bag of B&Q seed compost....lush it is !! The problem seems to lie with multi-purpose.

We need a celebrity to be the face of a campaign.....I'm being serious, it seems to work for other causes !!!


Hi All. It seems as though there is absolutely no control over what goes into a bag of compost. What qualifies a bag of rotted down vegetation to be deemed a "compost" or "Multi-Purpose Compost". There should be an accurate description or chemical composition to contol what can be sold as a compost, and given the millions we spend as a nation on this stuff, a British Standard should be applied or the retailers can simply bag up any rubbish and get away with it.

You are right marshmello, someone well respected in the gardening world needs to champion the cause.

Blimey I am starting to become a rebel !!!


Shrinking Violet

Well, I have been relatively lucky with Westland MP compost - but it is still pretty horrible stuff compared to what one could expect a few years ago.

I understand the arguments about peat being used, but in Ireland they burn peat to produce electricity - and gardeners account for, I believe, something like 4% of peat, so we are hardly the major culprits with this issue.

If I had lost seedlings like some of the posters here, I, too, would be furious.  But I just soooo wish I'd been in B & Q to see the compost on the floor.  Excellent!  It needs more gestures like this to get the point across.  And a "name" to spearhead a campaign would be good, too.

I used B&Q peat-free compost some years ago and found it to be pretty useless. In my opinion, most of these peat-free MP composts are failry poor, especially for seed sowing. Some of them are so bad they must surely infringe the Trade Description Act. Why we gardeners have to be penalised when Ireland still burns thousands of tons of real peat in their power stations is beyond my understanding.

Anyway, I have been using Homebase MP compost for a few years now and have found it to be reasonable and reliable, and if you sieve it first, not a bad seed compost. New Horizon MP (composted bark judging from the smell) is OK for potting-on, but to be honest, I wouldn't use it on its own. It's great as a soil conditioner though (if a bit pricey)

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 have found both Homebase and B&Q seed sowing compost to be reasonably good, but homebase MP compost to be fairly poor, especially used in containers. Always get a greenish layer on top and have hit and miss results. I usually mix it with my sandy garden soil for perrenials in containers but might have to mix some in for bedding plants too.

I have just ordered a composter and shall endeavor to make as much of my own as I can. It's worth checking your local council for offers on compost bins. I did this on directgov and found my council (Suffolk Coastal) has special offers.