Here’s Some Real Gardening News: Peat-free Composts – Fertile Fibre and SylvaGrow – Bag Two Out of Three Which? Gardening Best Buy 2017 Awards for Container Growing

s-grow-mediumThe April 2017 issue of Which? Gardening magazine brings good news for gardeners, and for our natural world: two out of three of its Best Buy awards for container compost have gone to modern and reliable peat-free compost brands (the other went to an ultra-expensive compost containing 70% peat, whose manufacture contributes directly to the destruction of carbon-storing peatlands).

Best Buys stack up for professional-grade SylvaGrow

Hot on the heels of three previous Which? Best Buy gongs*, SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost now adds a fourth Best Buy for container compost. As the press release from Melcourt, the makers of SylvaGrow highlights, ‘our sustainable peat-free growing media has become the only brand to have received Best Buy accolades in the last five reports on gardening compost from Which? Gardening. Indeed no other brand comes close to that record.’


Stocks sown in SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost got off to a flying start.

It’s not so much of a surprise. SylvaGrow is a professional-grade peat-free compost (a mix of composted bark, coir and wood fibre) which has been proven in use over many decades by some of the UK’s top commercial plant growers. I’ve used it for several years in my garden and greenhouse. It’s cracking stuff.

Pipped to a Best Buy by one point is peat-free SylvaGrow with Added John Innes (the basic SylvaGrow mix but with sterilised sand and loam added, giving it a more soil-like feel), which earns a Recommended Buy for container compost.

mp-compost-jiSylvaGrow with Added John Innes hit the Best Buy big time in Which? Gardening’s most recent trial of composts for sowing seeds (Which? Gardening magazine Jan/Feb 2017) and scored highly for growing on young plants. It’s been a top performer for me, giving seeds of all shapes, sizes and requirements an excellent kick-start in life.


I was chuffed with these dahlias sown in SylvaGrow with Added John Innes, which recently bagged a Which? Best Buy.

SylvaGrow peat-free mixes and most other products in Melcourt’s ‘passionate gardener’ range are endorsed (and used and sold by) the Royal Horticultural Society. The range also includes SylvaGrow Ericaceous Compost, for acid-loving plants, and will be joined in spring 2017 by SylvaGrow Organic, certified by the Soil Association.

SylvaGrow peat-free composts can be found in an expanding network of independent garden retailers (in handy 15 litre, and 50 litre bags). There’s an excellent online stockist locator here. If your gardening group or club is into bulk buying, it’s worth asking about having SylvaGrow delivered by the pallet load (you might save a few quid).

* Which? Best Buy container compost, April 2016, April 2015; Which? Best Buy compost for raising young plants, Jan/Feb 2016 (also a Recommended Buy for sowing seeds).

Fertile Fibre coir compost the best peat-free on test

Narrowly beating SylvaGrow Multipurpose Compost to the top spot in the 2017 Which? trial of container composts is Fertile Fibre Multipurpose Compost, made mostly of coir (milled coconut husks which are often burnt as waste) plus some vermiculite.

Fertile Fibre Multipurpose already has Best Buy form: in Which? Gardening magazine April 2015, it was described it as the ‘best peat-free’ for container growing.

fertile-fibre-mpFertile Fibre mixes are used by both gardeners and professional growers, and are organically certified by the Soil Association. It’s been a good and reliable performer on my patch over many years.

You won’t find Fertile Fibre in garden retailers, but they do offer a reliable home-delivery service. Clubbing together with gardening friends (or even foes if you want to persuade them that modern peat-free composts are the future of gardening) or a local group can help bring the price down.


My ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias germinated well in Fertile Fibre Multipurpose Compost and soon made sturdy seedlings.

It’s well worth checking out the Fertile Fibre website. They offer both seed and multipurpose composts (including biodynamic and vegan options), together with dry coir products for those wanting to make their own mixes, together with plant foods suited to their products.

They also supply ‘green’ peat – not mined from peat bogs but peat that’s eroded from upland blanket bogs and then collected from the screens in water filtration systems. It’s certified organic by the Soil Association.

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3 Responses to Here’s Some Real Gardening News: Peat-free Composts – Fertile Fibre and SylvaGrow – Bag Two Out of Three Which? Gardening Best Buy 2017 Awards for Container Growing

  1. Matthew Dent says:

    Many thanks for writing this article John. Here at Fertile Fibre we’re all about getting UK gardens peat-free. If anyone has any questions, just call us on 01432 853111 or browse our articles online at We offer free UK delivery but if you want to pick it up in person, visitors are very welcome. We’re in a stunning spot in Herefordshire and have hosted quite a few gardening club and WI trips.

  2. andy says:

    Hi,,,I’m going to make a alpine rockery and the books I have read suggest something like 1/3. Pear mix with topsoil and grit,,,could you suggest me a pear free alternative to peat…thanx…either from you or can be ready bought….the alpines I will be normal (slight acid to neutral so not true acid loving( or lime hating…thanx

    • John Walker says:

      Have a look at the SylvaGrow peat-free range, especially SylvaGrow With Added John Innes and their recently introduced John Innes Range These could be amended with grit/extra loam/soil as needed. If you’re planning a large rockery aim to concentrate the peat-free mix on the spots where you will do the most planting. Good luck!

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