Using old compost won’t do your garden any favours, but sadly, we’ve found a lot of it for sale on shop shelves. It’s time to introduce best-before dates on compost – and now B&Q’s investigating the idea…
We’re very pleased to report that Britain’s biggest retailer of compost, B&Q, is extremely interested in putting best-before dates on compost packaging and help prevent out-of-date stock from hitting the shelves.
We met with B&Q recently and were told that the company is going to be conducting its own independent tests to research the issue. Tim Clapp, horticulture and garden care lead buyer at B&Q, told us:
‘We’re investigating the shelf life of compost to ensure customers get the best possible experience from any bag they buy [from us]. We’ll determine our response when the findings are in.’
The importance of compost lifespan
B&Q wants to run the testing to understand the lifespan of its compost, as it varies between different formulations. The time it takes to release the fertiliser that composts contain depends on a number of factors, such as temperature and the conditions that it’s stored in, and this accounts for how quickly it deteriorates.
B&Q is planning to explore the impact of these different factors by running independent tests over a 12-month period at the East Malling Research Centre. The retailer’s currently working on a brief for this trial and aims to kick-start it this month. It will cover the full range of composts it sells, from multipurpose to ericaceous, seeds and cuttings to containers.
How old is your compost?
As B&Q sold more than 10 million bags of compost last year and there are currently two B&Q products that are Best Buy composts, it would be a fantastic result for gardeners if the company adopts best-before dates.
We found huge amounts of old compost on sale for the third spring running when we were buying the compost for our own trials earlier this year, so it’s still very much a problem for gardeners trying to get decent results.
We’ll keep you up to date with developments from B&Q once it has completed its testing and will continue to call for other manufacturers and retailers to put best-before dates on their compost bags. In the meantime, we’d love to hear whether you’ve bought compost you suspected to be past its best.