Last updated on April 26th, 2021
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If you’ve put a great deal of thought, effort and time into your garden, aren’t you a little disappointed when the plants, vegetables and fruit trees don’t do as well as you’d hoped? Perhaps you need a multi-purpose compost to deliver nutrients to your plants and to hold the water in so they grow up strong and healthy.
Compost is a growing medium that improves the condition of your plants by giving organic material back to the soil in a useable form. It aids in achieving the right growing conditions for your plants. Multi-purpose composts can usually be used for most of the plants in your garden as well as pots, containers and hanging baskets; some can also be used on indoor plants. The obvious advantage is you can usually just use the one type of multi-purpose compost for all these jobs unless you need something very specific.
We address the environmental concerns of peat-based composts in the Buyer’s Guide too which we think is important.
This Best Multi-purpose Compost review discusses five composts of this kind. Multi-use, multi-purpose and all-purpose are often used interchangeably when discussing compost. We present the pros and cons with a discussion of each product that we review and add our recommendation. The Buyer’s Guide is full of advice on what to look for when you buy multi-use compost. We end the review with a FAQ of a few of the most asked questions.
Top Multi-Use Compost Reviews
1. Thompson & Morgan 70L Multi-Purpose Compost
Thompson & Morgan Multi-Purpose Garden Compost contains 70 Litres of the compost ingredients plus a sachet of slow-release fertiliser that you mix into the compost before using it which is something no other compost manufacture do. However, neither the bag nor the company’s website state for how long the fertilizer lasts which would be handy to know as you can get some that last 3 months while long term fertiliser tends to last 6 months, whether for pots and planters it should make a big difference to the growth rate.
We recommend this compost for use with pots, hanging baskets and containers. The range of plants you can grow with this multi-purpose compost is impressive: flowers, patio plants, bulbs, bedding plants and vegetables from plug plants. This compost is also successful if you have seeds and cuttings to establish in a container or seed trays. You can also use this mix indoors for your house plants; you won’t have to buy separate compost which is a plus as we would recommend this with any other compost.
This compost has several sustainable features. Wood fibres (renewable) reduce the amount of peat in the mix which can only be a good thing and also help protect peat bogs which are under threat. There are no animal products are used in the ingredients so the compost is vegan friendly which may be another reason to consider this compost.
The warranty will give you confidence in this product. If you’re not 100% satisfied with it, you can get your money back. It really is that good and not many manufactures would give their compost a guarantee like that.
- Bag contains 70 litres of compost and 210g sachet of incredibloom slow release fertiliser to use for many pots of plants.
- Reduced peat content as it’s replaced by more sustainable wood fibre.
- Best for pots, hanging baskets, containers and you can repot anything from your garden.
- Use for planting and growing vegetables, flowers, patio plants, seeds, bulbs and bedding plants.
- Specially formulated for growing seeds and cuttings so you can grow plants from scratch.
- No animal products so it’s vegan friendly.
- No need to mix with any other type of soil or to air it out before use.
- Can use for indoor potting compost to grow your houseplants in.
- Warranty is 100% satisfaction or your money back.
- A little pricey but well worth it.
Thompson & Morgan Multi-Purpose Garden Compost can handle any plants or vegetables that you want to grow in a container or a pot. It’s also specially formulated to give everything that a growing seed or cutting needs. You can grow your plants from scratch and then transplant them in your garden. It contains less peat than other composts and is vegan friendly.
The only significant complaint that we found online was that this all-purpose compost is expensive. However, we also came across the same comment when investigating the reviews for most of the other composts in this article. All this really tells you is that you will need to be willing to spend a little extra to get the premium quality you want. If compost is cheap, its usually cheap for a reason and contains fewer nutrients and is usually mixed with all sort of materials to bulk it out, think large chunks of bark and even plastic has been known to turn up in some compost.
We’re impressed with Thompson & Morgan 70L Multi-Purpose Compost for planting pots and containers as well as starting seeds and cuttings off. We’ve made it our Best Pick for a reason and would recommend it every time.
2. Levington 40L Multi Purpose Compost with added John Innes
Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes is an all-purpose compost that you can use for every place in your garden that you want to grow plants. It helps to create strong plants in beds, borders, handing baskets, pots and tubes. You don’t have to worry about buying separate composts for your patio containers and your garden.
The mix of ingredients is traditional and we could not list the best compost without including a mix with John Innes which basically means it loam based. It consists of loam, peat, sand and fertiliser which last around 8 weeks. As mentioned, it has a compost from the John Innes range of products. This compost is renowned for allowing water to drain away to prevent waterlogging but also for retaining moisture, something many composts fail at. It also provides a stable base for your plants to grow up in. Levington includes information about how the company is as sustainable as they can be by developing and managing the peat bogs they use.
The fertiliser in the Levington multi-purpose compost has a slow release and feeds nutrients to your growing plants for eight weeks after they’re planted. Just remember to start fertilising the plants yourself in two months. This Levington compost is suitable for all stages of a plant’s growth, including the first stage of large seeds. You don’t have to worry about when it’s best or harmful to use it.
One important feature is that the compost is pet and child friendly. You don’t have to worry and run around keeping your loved ones from going into the compost space. Another important feature, especially for beginning gardeners, is that the compost bag has full instructions on the back of it. You find out where to use the compost, how to use it, what it is a made of and sustainability information. This information is invaluable to use the compost in the best way to grow strong and healthy plants.
- Contains loam, peat, sand and fertiliser for a traditional mix.
- Ideal for plants that like moist free-draining soil.
- Superior texture with phosphate so easy to distribute.
- Added John Innes compost for more nutrients for your plants and for retaining moisture.
- Suitable for beds, borders, hanging baskets, pots and tubs – most of your growing spaces in your garden.
- Feeds your plants for eight weeks after planting but remember to start fertilizing after this long time.
- Works for all stages of a plant’s life, including larger seeds, so no worries about when you should use it.
- Child and pet friendly so your kids and pets don’t have to stay off part of the garden.
- Full and easy to follow instructions on the back of the bag for where to use it, how to use it, what is it, health and safety information, and sustainability information.
- Diagram of different size pots showing you how many of them 70 Litre will fill, so you buy enough compost.
- Doesn’t tell you the percentage amount of each of the contents so you’re not sure how much of each ingredient you’re putting in your pots and beds.
- Expensive for the amount you get.
Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes is an impressive all-purpose compost for all parts of your garden, except your lawn. It’s the only compost in this review that has the added nutrients from John Innes compost, a mixture some specific plants need.
This multi-use compost is suitable for patio or hanging containers and for the beds and borders in your garden. Importantly Levington’s mix if not harmful for children and pets. And if you’re worried about how and where to use this compost, just read the full instructions on the back of the bag.
Some complaints that we found for all the composts in this review is that they all are too expensive for the amount obtained.
We’re impressed with the full use of this compost for your garden and patio. We’re also impressed with the instructions that are readily available on the bag. We’ve made Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost our Runner-up in the review of Best Multi-purpose Composts.
3. Miracle-Gro 50L All Purpose Enriched Compost
The Miracle-Gro All Purpose Enriched Compost 50L contains Fibre Smart technology that uses 100% natural hollow wood fibres along with a small amount of peat which is the first thing we liked about this compost.
Miracle-Gro enriched compost is suitable for plants, fruits and vegetables. You can use it in beds and borders as well as in containers and pots and even hanging baskets. It’s also effective when growing plants in greenhouses or conservatories under glass. In terms of size, the 50L bag is in the middle of the range of other composts.
The “enriched” part of the name refers to the extra 40% of nutrients (Miracle-Gro plant food) that this Miracle-Gro compost has over other multi-use composts. The extra nutrients ensure that your plants don’t die from lack of food. The Miracle-Gro fertiliser is released slowly over six months so this would be described as long term fertiliser and would be perfect for shrubs. For some people, that’s the entire growing season. If your plants last longer, be sure to continue the fertilising task manually. This compost also contains water retaining ingredient (granules) that makes sure that plants growing in containers don’t dry out, again this is something cheaper compost don’t use.
- Use in beds, borders, hanging baskets, pots and containers, for garden-wide colourful plants.
- Grows plants, fruit and vegetables for all your colour and food needs.
- Has 40% more nutrients than other multi-use composts so your plants grow big and strong.
- Fibre Smart tech with 100% natural hollow wood fibres reduces the amount of peat.
- Fertiliser feeds for up to six months so you don’t have to worry too soon about feeding your plants.
- Contains water-retaining granules for help retain moisture for when plants need it most.
- No instructions on bag on how to use it which would be handy for beginners
The Miracle-Gro line of garden products has a deserved name for high quality. The bulk of the Miracle-Gro All Purpose Enriched Compost is hollow wood fibres and the rest is peat and unnamed other ingredients. This all-purpose compost is effective for plants, fruits and vegetables anywhere in your garden or on your patio. The enriched part of the compost is the 40% more nutrients than other all-purpose composts but this really only applied to cheaper compost which contains only a few weeks of fertiliser.
We recommend Miracle-Gro All Purpose Enriched Compost for experienced gardeners, for people concerned about the use of peat and for those who don’t want to have to fertilise their plants often. Overall it’s a great alternative to our best pick.
4. YouGarden Professional 80L Potting Compost
YouGarden Professional Potting Compost comes in 80L bags for those who are planting many plants. The description of this as “professional compost” compares this brand to ordinary multi-use composts.
The YouGarden potting compost is “made from the finest ingredients” that include black and white peat and composted wood fibres. The composted wood fibres open up the compost mix and allow air to reach the roots of your plants which is essential for root development. The peat helps with drainage and stops the compost from holding the water too much. However, there’s no breakdown of the percentage of each ingredient. This mix contains the usual agent for wetting the compost and soil evenly. The slow-release fertiliser lasts an impressive six months so would be classed as long term feed.
- Large 80-litre bags of compost
- Professional grade compost – not to be confused with ordinary all-purpose composts.
- Made from “highest quality ingredients” that include composted wood fibre and black and white peat.
- 20% composted wood fibre, 3 grades of white and black peat.
- A wetting agent that distributes the water evenly throughout the compost so you don’t have extra dry or waterlogged patches.
- Slow-release fertiliser lasts for six months of feeding your plants potentially feeding plants for the whole summer.
- Plain white bag with no instructions.
- Not available from garden centres and DIY shops.
The YouGarden Professional Potting Compost comes in an 80L bag for those who want a lot of compost. It’s labelled as a “professional compost” with “high-quality ingredients”. The slow-release fertiliser lasts up to six months. Overall this is a top-quality compost which professional nurseries would use to grow plants and keep them looking so good.
However, except for listing composted wood fibres and two types of peat in their adverts, there’s no list of other ingredients. In fact, the bag is just a plain white bag with no instructions. YouGarden Potting Compost is not available at gardening centres or DIY shops; you have to purchase it online and it’s delivered to your home.
Gardeners in online reviews also complain that, despite its claims, this multi-use compost doesn’t hold water well. Many have resorted to mixing it with other all-purpose composts and the results have been encouraging. That being said, all compost need watering in very warm weather and this could be the real problem, lack of experience of how often you have to water any compost in pots. We would recommend this compost probably as much as the Thompson & Margan compost.
5. Westland Jack’s Magic All Purpose Compost
Westland Jack’s Magic All Purpose Compost is best for potting and planting plants in containers. Its main ingredient is peat and it doesn’t contain any wood so it not as environmentally friendly but some gardeners prefer peat-based compost so for them this is perfect. It’s suitable for plants, vegetables and fruits so your pots will be colourful and get all the nutrients they need. This all-purpose compost advertises that it’s good for sowing and growing seeds; not many other composts make this claim. Organic fertiliser and seaweed serve to give nutrients to the plants to grow tall and strong.
The bag the compost comes in states that the compost is a traditional mix. These mixes usually include peat, loam, coarse sand or grit, and fertiliser. The compost bag doesn’t contain a list of other ingredients but it does have a diagram showing the percentage of peat. The instructions on the bag of the back explain how to use the compost and what to use it on.
- Peat-based compost with 95% peat compost so not suitable for those who want only sustainable ingredients in their compost.
- Doesn’t contain wood bark/wood fibre so no large pieces in the mix.
- Enriched with organic fertiliser to feed your plants for the first four to five weeks so you don’t have to.
- Contains seaweed, processed to remove excess salts, to enhance the growth of your plants.
- All ingredients are 100% natural and organic.
- Use for potting and planting in containers for your patio or conservatory.
- Suitable for flowers, fruits and vegetables so can use it for whatever you plant.
- Enriched with seaweed to add additional nutrients.
- Good for seed sowing and growing so you can raise any plant from its first stage.
- Good instructions on bag for: How do I use it? Sowing seeds, seedlings, potting, taking cuttings, containers and hanging baskets, Jack’s tips, health and safety issues.
- Not as environmentally friendly as other compost on this list.
Westland Jack’s Magic All Purpose Compost contains 95% peat which some gardeners prefer to have. It’s suitable for plants, vegetables and fruit, so consider planting a food garden this year or just using in your pots for summer bedding. All ingredients are organic and natural.
Online reviewers say that this compost is not pet or child friendly. But without the list of ingredients, we can’t tell, even if it has only natural and organic ingredients.
We recommend Westland Jack’s Magic All Purpose Compost if you’re looking for a multi-use compost that contains primarily peat.
Not all multi-use composts are the same. Some contain peat and others don’t or very little; some have a fertiliser that will keep your plants fed for a number of weeks; and others are suitable for only some kinds of plants.
In this Buyer’s Guide, we address the features to consider before buying this type of compost.
Peat or not?
Whether you want peat in your compost mix or not is the first question you should ask yourself. Your answer strongly determines which brand and type of all-purpose compost you buy.
Environmentalists, and others, are concerned at the rapid depletion of peat bogs due to peat being harvested for compost. Some multi-use composts contain a small amount of peat while others have up to 95% peat. Only one of the products we review, Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes, states that it’s working to restore and manage the peat bogs from which they harvest their peat.
Some composts include only sustainable ingredients. Peat-free compost usually contains such ingredients as green compost, wood fibre, coir and composted bark. Each of these ingredients also has its own problems but they are sustainable.
Other ingredients you may find
Loam provides the main body of the compost and is the basis of nutrition for your plants. It supplies clay that absorbs and releases nutrients when they’re needed. Loam has essential micro-elements in it as well.
Peat increases the level of porosity in the compost mix. It improves the amount of air making it down to the roots of the plant and helps to retain water. Peat forms humus as it slowly decomposes.
Grit or coarse sand allows excess water to drain from the compost. This prevents water logging where the plants sit (unhealthily) in a pool of water on the top of the compost.
Fertiliser is often included in the multi-purpose compost mix. Fertiliser is a mix of various chemicals that serve as nutrients for plants. These include nitrogen, phosphates, potash and trace elements in various combinations. The fertilisers in compost slowly release their nutrients and can last for a number of weeks. Pay attention to this number as you have to start fertilising the plants yourself at the end of this period and some have 8 weeks of fertilizer whole other can have 6 months.
John Innes is an ingredient in some all-purpose composts. This refers to a range of composts made at the John Innes Institute in the UK. These mixes are based on loam and the range contains several different types. For example, J1 Seed Compost is for sowing seeds while J1 No 2 is for potting plants. The type of John Innes compost in the multi-use compound may not be mentioned on the box or bag.
Some composts tell you their exact contents, (with percentages) on the bag or box. Others don’t mention it as all. Right in the middle are those that say “made of high quality materials”. As you’ve worked hard to establish your garden, it’s a good thing to know what you’re putting your plants in.
Most composts tell you on the bag what kinds of situations they’re good for. These include hanging baskets, containers, tubs, beds, planters, and window boxes. This should cover everything in your garden except the lawn. Some people do use these composts on their lawn but topsoil is much less expensive for laying turf on and lawn dressing is better suited for putting on lawns.
The kinds of vegetation on which you can use the compost vary by brand as well. The types can include fruit, vegetables, seeds, seedlings and any flowers.
Check to see if you can use the multi-use compost on house plants as well. This will really cover all your needs.
Most composts state that they are suitable for all stages of a plant’s growth. However, some are better at growing seeds than others, so check this out if you plant your garden or pots from seeds.
Using multi-use compost
You can use this type of compost all year round. The amount of watering you need to do depends on the climate, the time of year and the types of plants. Some of the composts in this review give extensive instructions on how to use the product; others don’t help you out at all.
For example, Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes has extensive instructions for where to use it, how to use it, what it is (ingredients), and sustainability information. Westland Jack’s Magic All Purpose Compost also has good instructions. For other multi-use composts, you may have to look at their websites. If you’re using the compost for many different plants, be sure about what you should do for each.
If you don’t use all of the compost bag, roll down the top of the bag to keep the contents dry and store it somewhere dry. Use the compost within a year of opening it as the nutrients and fertiliser lose their potency after some time.
If your pets or children frequently play in the garden, make sure that the multi-use compost is pet and child friendly. Only one of the products in our review mentions that on the bag – the Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost with added John Innes. That’s not to say that the others aren’t child and pet friendly but they don’t advertise that feature.
Is multi-purpose compost OK for seeds?
Multi-purpose compost can be used for seeds. Some composts are specially formulated to give seeds a great chance for success. Check out the suggested uses on the bag or box of compost. In general, seeds don’t need fertiliser which is why our best pick by Thompson & morgan is ideal.
What is multi-purpose compost used for?
Multi-purpose provides a growing medium along with nutrients for all types of plants. Multi-purpose compost can be used on pretty much every kind of vegetation in your garden in most kinds of containers and beds. It’s not usually recommended for lawns as that works out to be more expensive than the cheaper topsoil and top dressing. A traditional multi-use compost is made up of peat (maybe), loam, grit/coarse sand and fertiliser (maybe).
Is multi-purpose compost OK for roses?
Garden experts are of mixed opinion whether to use multi-purpose compost on roses. The prevailing opinion seems to be that it’s OK to do so as long as you mix the multi-use compost with John Innes No 3 compost. The compost box or bag instructions may tell you that roses are one of the plants that you can use it with. Roses are hungry plants and need plenty of feed which is why some multipurpose compost is not suitable as it sometimes lacks the nutrients needed. Any with 6 months fertiliser should be adequate.
Our review of the Best Multi-Purpose Compost has introduced composts with varying amount of peat in them. All of them have a slow release fertiliser to give nutrients to your plants as they grow.
Our Buyer’s Guide explained all the features of all-purpose compost and why they are important.
Our Best Pick is Thompson & Morgan 70L Multi-Purpose Garden Compost. This compost works best in pots, hanging baskets and containers. It is excellent for growing seeds and cuttings.
The Runner-up selection is Levington 40L Multi-Purpose Compost with John Innes. This is a compost for anywhere your garden beds and your patio containers. Its nutrients are boosted by the addition of John Innes loam compost. If you’re not sure if a multi-purpose peat-based compost is what your plants need, check out our Choosing the Right Compost for the Right Plants review. This explains the different types of compost and describes the plants that each are suitable for.
Last update on 2021-12-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API