Sales of peat-free Dalefoot Composts double

Firm selling composts made from sheep’s wool and bracken is 20 years old

Dalefoot Composts
Simon Bland and Jane Barker from Dalefoot Composts. Picture; Andrea Jones

Gardeners are turning their backs on compost containing peat, according to the owner of Dalefoot Composts, as sales doubled in the last year.

Its premium composts, made from sheep’s wool and bracken, are now used by commercial growers, RHS Chelsea gold medal-winning flower and amateur gardeners like me around the UK.

I love the stuff, especially for growing tomatoes and the Claybuster Mix, essential on my clay-based soil. The range has composts for container growing, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, seeds and acid-loving plants.

Owner Simon Bland said: “We’ve seen our sales double in the last year which is proof that gardeners want to garden more ethically and really do care about the quality of products they use on their allotment, back garden or balcony.”

The couple behind Dalefoot, environmental scientist Jane Barker and farmer Simon, started making compost from the natural ingredients around their Cumbrian farm in 1997.

Inspired by early 20th-century gardening books that mentioned wool as a garden mulch, and a desire to make good use of the invasive bracken growing on the fells, the couple invented their secret compost recipe, bagged the product up themselves and started selling at local farmers’ markets.

Twenty years later the compost is sold across the UK, was shortlisted for RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden Product of the Year in 2013 and featured on BBC Two’s Back to the Land programme. The business employs 18 people and sources bracken and wool from local farmers.

Growing benefits of the compost include:

  • Natural water retention of wool fibres means up to 50 per cent less watering.
  • Wool provides a steady, slow sustained supply of nitrogen.
  • High levels of natural potash from the bracken promotes flowering and fruiting, healthy growth and hearty crops – NO need for any additional plant food.
  • Made from 100 per cent renewable resources with great environmental benefits.
  • The compost has a similar soft texture to peat and has a wide range of naturally occurring trace elements for good plant health.

    The range is available online at www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk from £10.99 per bag down to £7.50 each for orders of 50 bags plus delivery, and also from a growing list of stockists.

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