Is there a difference between ‘multipurpose’ and ‘all-purpose’ compost? Surely there must be, or why have two different types advertised?
Here in the Which? Gardening team the general consensus is that, as their names suggest, multipurpose should be fit for a variety of tasks, whereas all-purpose is fit for everything.
When we polled Which? Gardening members, two-thirds believed all-purpose to be fit for everything: seeds, young plants, container plants and cuttings. However, findings also showed that multipurpose compost is expected do all these things as well. To clear up the matter, we decided to investigate.
What did we find?
Fundamentally, we found that all-purpose doesn’t always mean ‘all’. When we checked the packaging of the composts we were testing for this year’s compost trial, we found that some that are labelled as all-purpose don’t recommend you use them for seeds, especially small ones.
So we approached manufacturers to flag our findings and clear up the confusion. However, we’re not certain that the responses received really settle the compost conundrum…
Richard Gianfrancesco from Westland Horticulture, makers of J Arthur Bower’s and New Horizon composts, told us that while multipurpose is generally accepted as being for everything, from seed-sowing to tubs and baskets, it’s best to check the packaging to see if it’s right for your tasks.
Andy Chalmers, managing director of Melcourt, which produces SylvaGrow, told us that all-purpose means that it is truly appropriate for most typical garden usage.
David Coop, head of technical development at Westland, which also makes Gro-Sure composts, said that research shows the term ‘multipurpose’ is familiar to more experienced gardeners, while newcomers are more familiar with the term ‘all-purpose’.
To add to the confusion, Gro-Sure Peat Free All-Purpose Compost with Four-month Feed doesn’t mention sowing seeds on the list of uses, although Westland tell us it can be used for that purpose.
Time to end the confusion
Just like using old compost won’t do your garden any favours, there’s also little to gain from using the wrong one either. But, how are we meant to know which one to use?
We think that better labelling is needed so that you don’t have to carefully examine the small print or try to second-guess if you’re grabbing the correct compost.
What do you think ‘multi-purpose’ and ‘all-purpose’ means, or should mean for that matter? Do you agree that compost labels should be made clearer so that you know what you’re buying?