The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Buying compost in bulk can save you loads of money


Photo: Soil (copywrite Harrod Horticulture)

Photo: Soil (copyriight Harrod Horticulture)

Every day, when it’s not raining or freezing, I spend an hour digging in the garden. Depending on how spritely I feel, I can usually dig a square metre. It is mind numbingly slow. Thank goodeness for my DAB sports radio which I bought to stop myself going mad when I was painting 38 Georgian windows and doors, inside and out. Four coats of paint outside three coats inside. Do the math!

The reason why the digging is taking so long is that many years ago a number of pig stys and outhouses were obviously bulldozed, covered with a layer of topsoil and laid to grass. This has led to a very bumpy lawn and a stone problem in the herbaceous garden.

Each square metre fills a builder’s barrow with bricks tiles and large chunks of flint. Don’t ask me what I’m going to do with the mountain of rubble!  I have no master plan as yet. The soil is full of gravel. Any piece under 5 cm is allowed to stay – otherwise I could be riddling for years.
I’m hoping to excavate 25 square meters so I’ve been looking into ways of replacing the rubble with topsoil or compost. At the moment, the extended border is much lower than the lawn. I want pretty, plumped up, borders filled with flowers for the gate side stand.

I’ve discovered that if you buy topsoil or compost in bulk it is much, much cheaper than buying the bags from the garden centre. I was astonished by the difference in price of online suppliers – the cheapest that I’ve found is from Compost Direct – coming in at £50 for 750 litres and £58 for 1000 of their top black gold compost. Elsewhere I’ve seen both of these being offered for twice or three times the price.

If we buy this compost and top soil we can also make our own grow bags. I’m planning to buy some heavy duty refuse sacks to make deep and chunky grow bags for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and cucurbits. These can sit in our sunny front garden and won’t dry out as quickly as the standard grow bags. Last Spring I was attracted by the chubby grow bags for sale in Homebase –  but at £5 for a 50 litre bag, the price put me off.

We have to bulk up our extended herbaceous borders. But part of me is holding back.
I have some clients who bought a load of cheap compost and it was full of seeds that germinated and were a nightmare. Should I go to a top soil supplier in the UK – Harrod Horticulture has teamed up with Rowlawns and is cheaper than Rowlawns – or should I go the budget route which might be absolutely fine?
What do you think? I really need some sound advice please.

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  1. Beware of Compost Direct as I’ve heard some real horror stories regarding the quality of products and their delivery service. Visit Trust Pilot to get the full picture.

    Earlier this year I purchased a 1500L Jumbo Bag of Soil Conditioner from Field Compost Ltd. The product was beautifully dark, clean and friable making it really easy to apply and spread on my vegetable planters. The customer service was excellent as well with plenty of communication regarding the timing of delivery etc.

  2. Edward Walters

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m probably going to buy the 900L bulk bag from Compost Direct now. You’ve saved me the research for the cheapest prices!

  3. I ended up buying it by the bulk bag, only because i needed a fair bit. I have also mixed with some soil for the flower beds. It has become a nice rich color. Lets see what next year brings .

  4. stuart goldhawk

    Is there a particular type of compost that is goo for grass. I know this may sound stupid but i caught the end of a program and the guy was talking about a type of compost that made his grass greener.

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