“ Manufacturer: Dalefoot / Type: Compost „
Early last year I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a superb compost through the Lakeland website in the gardening section. Quite an unusual product, the compost I purchased was made from sheep wool. A chance purchase has led to a discovery of an excellent product, in my opinion, and although no longer available from Lakeland, the product is available direct from the manufacturer Dalefoot Composts.
I am a passionate gardener, and I have my father to thank for that, as he taught me so much about plants and how to grow them. In his day peat was so heavily used; we always used to struggle home with a giant shamrock green bag from the garden centre, but now the sustainability of this dwindling resource is in serious question, and gardeners have turned, in the main, to alternatives.
I have a fairly compact garden, which has a canopy of mature Morello and eating cherry trees around the borders, and the main part of the garden is a dog friendly lawn. I grow all my own salad leaves throughout the spring and summer through to autumn, and use pots and raised beds for this purpose. It is, therefore, essential to use good quality compost within these, as they depend on the nutrients provided to grow well. It is such a joy to make salad each day from these leaves, and it is so cost effective too. Even better the plants I grow are organic, and so benefit from never seeing a chemical in their lives; of course part of a plant's ability to resist disease is due to its overall health - a robust plant will do better than a run down one without essential nourishment.
The Compost and Ordering Details
Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost is designed to be used as a mixer with other compost or soil to create a nutrient rich medium in which to grow plants successfully. I purchase this direct from the Dalefoot website where it retails for £10.99 for 40 litres. Don't be afraid to order from them at www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk. It is secure, but it is not a sophisticated website. The information is clearly laid out and when I order the compost arrives the following day. There is a minimum order of 2 bags but postage is only £3. You can order large quantities on pallets if you prefer, and a table of prices is available on the website.
The Marriage Between Bracken And Sheep Wool!
The company that make this are based in The Lake District National Park on a traditional hill farm. They have a passion for sheep - the Swaledale and Cheviot breeds roam their land over bracken covered fells, and so the environment creates the perfect recipe for compost. This, I know, may at first seem like a surprise, but bracken and sheep wool marry together to create this product.
The company began in 2000 and already have seen praise from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Countryside Agency who have mentioned their product in a publication about sustainable farming. The couple who started the company, Dr. Jane Barker and Simon Bland, have some hefty credentials behind them, as Jane was a lecturer on environmental management and rural planning at Bradford University for ten years. It seems fitting that now her passion for sustainability is being used in a practical way. Inspiration for the product actually came from the experience of bracken clearance, a necessary task, and the chance glance at the contents of an old gardening book, which detailed the nutrient rich aspects of bracken. This seeded the idea that they had everything on their doorstep to make a product which would be a sustainable peat alternative.
It's All About Sustainability
The harvest of bracken for this product actually also has a very valuable side effect in that bracken itself is a threat to the landscape. This is due to its tendency to get out of control. Collecting the sheep is very difficult if bracken is left to get too dense, and furthermore it chokes out other plants which are more beneficial to the environment. So bracken is collected in a controlled way to make the compost. The bracken is harvested in July and allowed to compost for four months. Bracken itself, in days gone by, was used for winter bedding for livestock, and in the spring it was then used to fertilise the land. It has lots of nutrients and is a rich source of humus. Sheep wool is added to the mix, and this also provides valuable income to neighbouring farmers, who value the revenue, especially as sheep wool is not in demand for knitwear as much as it once was.The beauty of this compost is that as the bracken used to make it is harvested regularly, areas of land become available to ground nesting birds and insects, and butterflies in particular are thriving.
How I Use The Double Strength Compost
I use this compost in three ways -if I am growing plants from seed I will make the mix slightly less strong by using only one part of the mix to two of my own compost, or one of sharp sand and one of my compost, depending on the sort of plants I am sowing. For more established plants I do as they suggest and make up my pots with half and half, though very hungry plants such as tomatoes may need a two to one ratio as in my experience they tend to be greedy. Thirdly I have even used this as a mulch around plants in the borders, including my rhubarb, which has performed better so far this season than in any previous spring to date. This is no surprise as Yorkshire rhubarb growers use wool compost indoors in their growing sheds where they produce forced rhubarb for all of the UK market. If you have purchased any of that lovely pink rhubarb this year chances are it was grown in sheep wool compost!
At the end of the season rather than waste all the compost I have in my tubs I will refresh them by adding this product to them. This way I find plants thrive well in the second use from the compost, and it saves a lot of money and time buying large potting compost bags.
How It Performs.
The Dalefoot Compost has performed superbly - so good is it that I have stopped purchasing other makes altogether. The lettuces are thriving, and the compost is extremely water retentive. There is nothing worse than going away for a couple of days to find pots all dried out. This compost really helps this, and I find my pots to be much more resilient to the odd dry day.
As the compost contains slow release nitrogen I have found the performance does not tail off at all through the season, so I have not had to spend money on any other soil improving agents feeds or fertilisers.
The beauty of buying this product is that it is in effect a soil improver, and so shipping it uses less energy than the double amount that would be needed of traditional compost. I do also buy their potting compost, which is called Wool Compost (No1) which you can use straight from the bag, and have found this to be excellent. However I prefer to use the double strength as in my opinion it is greener and more sustainable.
Other Available products
As well as these two products Dale also make Lakeland Gold which is a peat free soil conditioner which has horse manure added. This is excellent if you have clay soil as it helps drainage. The website says it provides an earthworm banquet! The company also make a product called Horsepower, which is another soil improver idea for roses.A very recent addition to the range is Lakeland Ericaceous, which is for acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias.
I can't fault this product. It is moisture retentive, sustainable, a good price, and made from natural materials straight from The Lake District fells. I've been enjoying lettuce and salad leaves in abundance already from my pots and raised beds this season, and last year the produce I was able to grow was better than anything I have produced to date.
As I explained earlier I have a small garden in terms of available space, so depend heavily on containers, but have a passion for growing crops and flowers. This compost produces vibrant blooms, healthy vegetables and salads and it is sustainable. It's first class, it really is.
Barker & Bland,
Tel/Fax: 01931 713281
This review is also published on Ciao under my user name there Violet1278.