Last years compost problem.

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Ricard with an H
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Last years compost problem.

Postby Ricard with an H » Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:30 pm

I still had a bag left over from last year so I dragged it into the 'Shed' so I could riddle it for seed sowing, I noticed the white growth though it didn't register that it was a dodgy organism.

So, a complete tray of salad seedling sprouted and nicely spaced because I did learn about over-crowding but they all keeled over. The rocket seedlings are still standing up but those are the only two trays that have sprouted so far.

It's fairly obvious I can't use this compost for seedlings unless I sterilise it by burning and I can use it for other things but the question is, is it usual to be suspicious about last seasons compost ? If thats the case there has to be a lot of last seasons compost still in stock that we buy then wonder why our seedlings keel over.

Most years since I joined we get a compost discussion and we did cover a lot of ground though I don't remember this one coming up.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Pa Snip » Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:42 pm

Hi Richard

I often store bags of unopened purchased multi purpose compost over from the previous year and it is not uncommon for it to have a greyish white mould growth inside when I open it.

No idea what type of mould growth it is but I have never experienced any problem with using it.

Are you sure your seedlings keeling over wasn't due to low temperature or damping off?
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Gerry » Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:51 pm

Richard,
It wasn't B&Q multi-purpose by any chance, was it. Last year all my first sowings failed.
At first I thought one of my propagators had suffered from the thermostat malfunctioning but eventually the penny dropped and I had good results with new peat based compost. I put it down to too much fertilizer in the B&Q stuff as the seeds which germinated just died.
Whatever it was new compost solved it. I haven't had any problems with unopened compost kept from previous years.

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Gerry
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Motherwoman » Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:16 pm

I give B&Q compost a miss nowadays, Levington or Scats own brand seems to give good results. Try to avoid stacks of compost in the garden centre that have been left outside all winter, they will be old, cold and wet! When you do buy your compost get it under cover, preferably somewhere it will warm up. Don't use water butt water on young seedlings, use fresh from the tap and water from below if you can by standing the pots/trays in a shallow container for a few minutes and then removing. Don't over water in cold dull weather.

Hope this helps!

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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Ricard with an H » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:15 am

No, it wasn't B&Q compost, this compost has been the very best I have used in my three years of apprenticeship. Well balanced when it came to moisture retention and draining, on the lumpy side, a mixture of peat and presumably non peat material with the claim of ,"Extra John Innes".

I'm guessing that if I put it into a wheelbarrow and go,over it with my propane torch it'll be fine.

By the way, I did locate some proper sharp sand eventually, from Wickes. None of the builders merchants stock sharp sand because it comes from far-away quarries.

Do any of you use vermiculite? how and why do you use it ? I can take a guess though would rather share your experiences.

I made a few mistakes that cost me time and gave me a headache because I didn't want to bother you with silly questions that have possibly been aired many times before, lots of newcomers to GYO have to be reading this forum so even if questions are repeatedly repeated it'll be usefull.

Another question, how much for my good condition Fiat 500 ? 2010 and 68000 miles. I need a greenhouse. Only joking, sorry.

I sometimes hope someone would steal it.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Motherwoman » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:32 am

The best potting compost I ever made was when I had the nursery and I had a large compost making machine. In would go a 300 litre bale of peat, a quantity of washed grit (orange stuff, dug locally, no lime content) and, if I remember right, a ready mixed bag of fertilizer for either potting or seed or ericaceous. It was generous on the grit and in the end I used to bag some up and sell to customers as they loved it.

I think most modern composts are too light on grit, probably because of handling problems with the extra weight rather than what's best for the plants. Maybe in commercial plant production with state of the art growing conditions it's not a problem but for ordinary folks it is.

Can't think of a use for your Fiat though Richard!

MW
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Pa Snip » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:46 am

Just thinking logically, how is compost formed ?

Amongst other things microscopic bacteria forms and breaks down the material.
I would bet money that all you have found when you opened the bags is evidence of micro bacteria spores that are quite natural and probably had nothing to do with the loss of your seedlings.

Your unopened bags have spent months sitting sweating inside, there are probably very small holes in the bags (put there intentionally by the manufacturers) through which damp air and those micro spores can enter.

If you put a blow torch to it, what remaining goodness are you burning out of it. Surely it then becomes expensive ash.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Geoff » Sat Feb 21, 2015 9:16 am

There used to be a great solution for early seed sowing - Cheshunt Compound. Fill your seed trays, water them with Cheshunt, put them where you are going to germinate seeds, leave them a day to acclimatise then sow. Don't water from above or below until they have germinated, mist the surface if they are drying out.
Cheshunt has been withdrawn but there is an approved Bayer product which is more expensive and tricky to make in small quantities as it comes in sachets. It does work and I'll use for a mass sowing next week when I'll need enough to make it worthwhile.
Old compost is bad news as you already knew and others have said, I also agree with adding sharp sand to almost all commercial composts, though the Clover (see other post) that I am using at the moment looks OK without.
I use fine Vermiculite. Small seeds just cover with it, medium seeds cover with 50:50 fine compost and Vermiculite, large seeds just push in and cover. You are probably asking Vermiculite instead of sand, I haven't tried that.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby peter » Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:11 am

If the Fiat has a sunroof then fit some shelves and park it in a sheltered sunny spot. :twisted:
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Pa Snip » Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:38 am

:D Peter

And that then leads to the next question:-

How many trays of seeds can you fit in a Fiat 500 :D

Cue Jeremy Clarkson and team along with Monty Don for the test track trial
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Ricard with an H » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:18 pm

The tray of rocket is fine, a tray of coriander has just emerged and is ok so far but the salad leaves have only four seedling standing. I did keep the compost on the dry side and the night temperature stays above ten degrees.

Maybe it's because I sprinkled water from above, I try to avoid doing that but often forget the importance of not watering from above with tender seedlings and I remember thinking that I shouldn't be doing this so only watered the salad leaves.

Plonker EH ?

Thanks for the tip about grit, I always wanted to use grit but never found any until I ventured into Wickes. I thought they wash grit and sand for building purposes.

Regarding burning seed compost, I though seedlings just need water until a certain stage though to be honest I have never bought seed-specific compost, is it that important ?

You can get quite a lot of junk and rubbish into a Fiat 500, it's a crap gardeners car but it's cute and good for shopping bags. (She says) I don't like cute, I like useful so it's going.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby sally wright » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:53 pm

Dear Richard,
what kind of water are you using for your seedlings?
I would only recommend fresh tap water for seedlings, with the proviso that you thoroughly rinse out the watering can with fresh water before filling it. A lot of the fungal pathogens are airborne and will settle into standing rain water and leftover water in cans and cause infection of new seedlings.

If you have leftover seed or potting soil from last year that seems a little iffy, mix it in with some fresh compost and add some fertilizer pills at the appropriate rate to cover the lack of fertilizer in the old compost. 3-4 grammes of pills per litre of compost is usually good. Then use it for potting on larger plants only as they will generally ignore the fungal infections.

I also re-use old composts that have had uninfected plants in by this method. I do throw onto the compost heap things that have keeled over due to pests and diseases but on the whole I save a good deal of compost and money by doing this. After the second using the compost gets used as mulch.

I also make up final potting mixes using a similar method. 50-50 sieved soil (we have a sandy river gravel) and garden compost (also sieved) with the addition of fertilizer pills at between 3-6 grammes per litre. The stronger dose of pills for greedy feeders such as tomatoes and you will still have to liquid feed after a few weeks as the plants grow beyond the fertilizer store in the pot. After the season has ended this compost makes a very good dry store for overwintering such things as Dahlias/cannas and half hardy salvia stools.

By these methods I can save somewhere between a quarter and a third off my compost bill in any given year; which is for where I work about a £700 to £1000 saving per year.
Regards Sally Wright.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby Ricard with an H » Sat Feb 21, 2015 3:08 pm

Thank you Sally, you pop up only occasionally but always make up for your absence.

I don't know what fertiliser pills are, I only ever use liquid nutrient from mostly comfrey and chicken poo plus cow poo soaked in water. To be perfectly honest I tend to ignore all the marketing for convenience nutrients that seem to be targeted at suburban gardeners but I'm always ready to be guided and to learn.

I don't usually keep compost from the previous season though if I went to my source of compost right now they would most likely be selling what is left over from last years stock.

I just had a careful look at the healthy seedlings, in amongst them are seedling that have fallen over so it looks like they might all suffer.

The water I used came from the dehumidifier which is convenient, as I type this I can feel you staring at me and saying NO.
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Re: Last years compost problem.

Postby sally wright » Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:36 pm

Dear Richard,
get your self a small spoon and carefully remove the compost and seedlings where they have failed in the tray and about a centimetre beyond that all round. Go right to the bottom of the seed tray and try to leave a "cliff edge" , the seedlings in this area will already be infected so it is best if they go. Water only from below and try to keep the air above the seedlings moving to reduce the humidity.
The water from your dehumidifier is not really suitable for seedlings as it will be full of spores because it is not filtered, nor is there any chlorine in it which acts as a slight disinfectant.
Cleanliness is definitely next to good seed husbandry.
What I am referring to is pelleted slow release fertilizer. It is useful to use as a base fertilizer in all sorts of pots and planters when making your own compost mixes. It is very difficult to overdose a compost with these pellets so it makes using them very easy indeed. Miracle gro do several kinds, others include Osmacote and Ficote. All are at about the same level of plant nutrition although there are some specialist formulations.
Regards Sally Wright.
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