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Updated: 18 Jan 2022

Best compost to buy in 2022

Discover the top-scoring composts for sowing seeds, raising young plants and growing plants in containers. Read our guide to find out how to pick a compost that will be perfect for your gardening jobs.
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Adele Dyer
All compost test results 2017

The best compost will provide all the nutrients and support needed for seeds and veg to grow and thrive, while the worst will leave you with meagre crops and feeble plants.

But the only way to know if a compost is good or bad is to grow plants in it and compare them - something we've been doing for more than 30 years.

Many people no longer want to buy peat compost as it's believed to damage the environment and add considerably to global warming. However, peat composts are still the most widely available composts in garden centres and are preferred by many gardeners. 

To make it easier to choose the right compost for you, we have separated our results into two sections. The first lists the peat-free composts we have tested, and you can find our recommendations for peat composts at the bottom of the page.


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Best peat-free compost for sowing seeds

The results are updated in late January each year.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Peat-free composts we've tested




B&Q GoodHome Enriched Multi-purpose Compost£6.10 for 50 litres
B&Q GoodHome Multi-purpose Compost£5.80 for 50 litres
B&Q Verve Seed & Cutting Compost£3.95 for 20 litres
Bathgate Multi-purpose Peat-Free Compost£6.75 for 50 litres
Coco & Coir Coco Grow£5.99 for 9 litres
Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds£7.99 for 12 litres
Fertile Fibre Multi-Purpose Compost £22 for 60 litres

Best peat-free compost for raising young plants

The results are updated in late January each year.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Peat-free compostPriceTomatoAntirrhinumScore
B&Q GoodHome Enriched Multi-purpose Compost£6.10 for 50 litres
B&Q GoodHome Multi-purpose Compost£5.80 for 50 litres
B&Q Verve Seed & Cutting Compost£3.95 for 20 litres
Bathgate Multi-purpose Peat-Free Compost£6.75 for 50 litres
Coco & Coir Coco Grow£5.99 for 9 litres
Dalefoot Wool Compost for Potting£10.99 for 30 litres
Fertile Fibre Multi-Purpose Compost£22 for 60 litres

Best peat-free compost for containers

The results are updated in late March each year.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Peat-free compostPricePelargoniumPotatoesScore
Homebase Peat Free Multi-purpose Compost£5.25 for 50L
Melcourt SylvaGrow Multi-purpose£7.99 for 50L
Melcourt SylvaGrow with added John Innes£8.99 for 50L
Melcourt SylvaGrow Tub & Basket£8.99 for 50L
Miracle-Gro Premium Peat Free All Purpose£5.99 for 40L
The Greener Gardening Co Happy Compost All Purpose£4.60 for 50L
Thompson & Morgan Incredipeatfree£14.99 for 70L

We also test grow bags - see our round-up of the best grow bags.

Best peat composts for sowing seeds

The results are updated in late January each year.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Peat compostPriceBasilPetuniaScore
Homebase Multi-Purpose Compost£5.75 for 50 litres
Levington John Innes Seed Compost£5.99 for 30 litres
Westland John Innes Seed Sowing Compost£6.99 for 35 litres
YouGarden Premium Professional Compost£9.99 for 40 litres
Table notes: Best Buys need to score more than 76%. Don’t Buys are less than 45%.
PRICE Based on the cost of a large bag. Smaller bags of many composts are available, but are usually more expensive per litre.
SCORE ignores price and is based on an equal weighting for tomato and petunia. Tomato: health 50%, size 35%, germination 15%. Petunia: germination 28%, size 24%, health 24%, appearance 24%.

Best peat composts for raising young plants

The results are updated in late January each year.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Peat compostPriceAntirrhinumTomatoScore
Homebase Multi-Purpose Compost£5.75 for 50 litres
Levington John Innes Seed Compost£5.99 for 30 litres
YouGarden Premium Professional Compost£9.99 for 40 litres
Westland John Innes No 1 Young Plant Compost£6.99 for 35 litres
Table notes: Best Buys need to score more than 81%, Don’t Buys are 45% or less.
PRICE Based on the cost of a large bag. Smaller bags of many composts are available, but are usually more expensive per litre.
SCORE ignores price and is based on an equal weighting for tomatoes and antirrhinums. Tomatoes: plant weight 40%, height 30%, health 30%. Antirrhinum: health 30%, flowering 25%, height 25%, weight 20%.

Best peat composts for containers

The results are updated in late March each year.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Peat compostPricePelargoniumPotatoesScore
Bathgate Champions Blend All Purpose Compost£6.50 for 50L
Homebase Multi-purpose Compost£5.25 for 50L
Levington Multi Purpose Compost with added John Innes£4.99 for 40L
Miracle-Gro Premium All Purpose Compost for All Plants£6.99 for 50L
Thompson & Morgan Incredicompost£14.99 for 70L
Westland Multi-purpose Compost with added John Innes£6.99 for 60L

Composts to avoid 

What are the different types of compost?

There are two main types of compost: multipurpose and composts for specific use, such as raising plants from seed or growing plants in patio containers.

Multipurpose and all-purpose composts 

  • Claimed to be suitable for germinating seeds, small seedlings and plants in patio containers, it's a good general compost, but our tests show that not all are great for all jobs. Look carefully at our results table to find one that is good for all your garden tasks. 
  • Multipurpose composts are often cheaper than specific-use composts, but check our Best Buys as some specialist composts can give great results. 

Seed, potting and specialist composts 

  • Formulated to optimise plant growth by providing the right conditions to suit the plant at a particular stage in its life, or for certain types of plants such as orchids, cacti or ericaceous plants. 
  • They often contain a different mix of ingredients to those found in multipurpose composts. These include small amounts of sand, grit or vermiculite in seed and potting composts, bark in orchid compost and mostly gravel and sand in cacti composts. 
  • The fertiliser may have been adapted, too. Seeds need very little fertiliser to germinate so like the low nutrient levels of seed composts. Young plants need more to fuel rapid growth, and so a multipurpose compost can be a better choice when you prick out your seedlings. 
  • Ericaceous compost is used for acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias and heathers when you grow them in pots. Many have a high peat content. Remember to use an ericaceous feed to keep your plants healthy. 
  • You may see composts formulated for veg growing. These are very similar to multipurpose composts, but may have a slightly different balance of nutrients. Some are excellent, some are less good. Look at our grow bags results. 
  • Specific-use composts tend to be more expensive than multipurpose composts, but in some cases it's worth paying a little more.

Tub and basket composts

  • Tub and basket composts are formulated to give the right conditions for pots of summer bedding to grow well. 
  • Some contain a controlled-release feed and/or water-storing granules. 
  • Tub and basket composts tend to be more expensive than multipurpose compost, but using a multipurpose compost with a Best Buy controlled-release fertiliser and regular watering will often give a better result.

How much do I need to pay for a good compost?

Compost can be as little as 99p and as much as £22, it all just depends on the type and how many litres of compost you get in the bag. It's important to remember that a high price doesn't guarantee quality, though.

In fact, our testing shows really variable results for both cheap and expensive compost. The only way to really know what you're getting is to look at our results. 

Things to look for when buying compost

It's hard to know if a compost is good or bad just by looking at the packaging, but there are a few things to look out for: 

  • Dry, clean bags that aren't torn or faded - in the garden centre choose bags that look new as the contents contain fresh compost. Bags that are faded or are heavy have been hanging around, getting too hot in the sun or soaking up rain, which will damage the compost in the bag. If possible, buy from a garden centre that keeps its compost in a covered area.
  • A medium-crumbly texture - is ideal. Composts that are too fine are prone to water logging, while those that are too coarse tend to need more frequent watering. A crumbly structure will allow excess water to drain through, while holding enough water and air for roots to thrive. 
  • The right balance of nutrients - a good seed or potting compost should have the right balance of nutrients to grow a range of plants during this stage of their development, whereas a multipurpose compost should be able to support plants at all growth stages. Remember that most composts only have enough fertiliser to last around four weeks, so after this you will need to add liquid or one of our Best controlled-release fertilisers.   

Getting the best from compost

It’s best to buy only the amount of compost you need, and use it up as soon as possible. Store compost in a shed or garage where it will be cool and dry, or undercover, especially through wet weather. If you can’t use up peat-free compost within three months of buying it, use it as a mulch on your borders. Peat ideally should be used sparingly as it's bad for the environment. 

If you swap to using peat-free compost, you may notice a few differences from using peat. You will need to water carefully as the top of the compost can often look dry or wet, but the rest of the pot could be wet or dry. Get used to putting your finger into the compost to feel below the top layer. You can also pick up your pots. A light pot will need watering, while a heavy one is probably wet enough. Check your pots regularly as they can dry out quickly. 

You may need to feed your plants more frequently if you use peat-free composts. Some don't contain any fertiliser at all and others have fertiliser that runs out quickly. As soon as the growth of your plants slows down, start to give them a liquid feed, including seedlings and small young plants. For more information, look at our reviews of liquid feeds and tomato feeds

Find out more about why you should buy peat-free compost.

Is it true that I can catch Legionnaires' disease from compost?

The bacterium responsible for the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease has been found in some composts sold in the UK. The chances of you becoming infected are very low, but it makes sense to take the following precautions when handling compost:

  • Use compost in a well-ventilated place; keep the greenhouse or potting shed door open and avoid breathing in dust.
  • Wear gloves (and no smoking or snacking!) and wash your hands after use.

Want to go peat-free? Here's our guide on everything you need to know about Peat-free compost: expert guide.

Why Which? compost reviews are better

We test compost for three different tasks; sowing seeds, raising young plants and for use in containers. 

  • Sowing seeds - we use 25 different composts to grow one vegetable and one flower variety from seed. 
  • Raising young plants - we use 25 different composts to grow tomato and antirrhinum, sown as seed and transplanted when they have two non-seed leaves. 
  • Containers - we use 25 different composts to grow pelargoniums and potatoes. 

All three tests are carried out by an expert at a horticultural institute, and the compost for seeds and young plants test takes place in a temperature and humidity-controlled greenhouse. The composts for containers are tested outside once the nights are frost-free. The results are compiled by an independent assessor who's an expert in compost and plant health. 

Our trials have also found these useful facts:

  • Quality isn't guaranteed - our compost trials reveal which composts are consistently good and which can be variable. Choose a Best Buy to be sure you're buying a reliable compost.
  • Growing bags don't compare - these used to be filled with peat and were cheap, making them an excellent alternative. However, they are now mostly peat-reduced or peat-free and have fertilisers meant for growing veg. 
  • Watch out for reformulated compost - manufacturers frequently change the mix of ingredients they use and the fertiliser, and this is speeding up as the ban on using peat comes ever closer. We can't recommend reformulated brands because there's no guarantee the new product will perform as well as the one we tested. Always use the images above to make sure the Best Buy compost you are buying is the one we have tested.
  • Old compost is often on sale - we send secret shoppers to buy our composts, who tell us if they find old compost on sale. It's a very common problem. We also know from our testing that old compost doesn't perform as well as fresh compost. To avoid this, buy bags that look new and aren't faded or heavy, which suggests they have been sitting around in bright sunshine for too long, or have been rained on regularly. 

Find out more in our guide on how we test compost. Alternatively, jump straight to our round-up of the best controlled release fertilisers