Have your growth rates slowed? Let's talk soil!

You’ve had your Vegepod a season or two now, enjoyed fantastic tasting vegetables and the season is coming to a close. Or is it?  You CAN continue to grow in autumn and winter.

Paying close attention to the compost you’re using is essential for continued success.

The Nitty Gritty on Composts:

Most composts are based on either pure organic matter or a mixture of graded soil (‘loam’) and added ingredients such as sand, peat and composted green waste. Any potting compost you buy from shops will already have sufficient nutrients to keep plants growing well for at least a few weeks, but all of them will eventually run out of that ‘plant food’ unless you add more.

Added to this, any compost based on organic matter such as peat, coir or composted woodchip, will gradually rot down. The fibers that are present will get shorter, finer, and stick ever more closely together so the air gaps around the roots will get squeezed out. After a season or two, plants in a container face a double whammy of insufficient nutrients and a lack of air around the roots. Essentially, the compost turns into pudding!

What should I do? Mix In, Add to or Replace Entirely? Help!
The good news is you have options. At this time of year when many crops are at the end of their growing season, it’s a perfect opportunity to prepare your compost for future growing success.
Option 1 - Partially replace
Probably the easiest and most economical option, along with being the most sustainable, is to replace a portion, say one third, of the existing compost with well rotted home made garden compost from your heap, or stable or farmyard manure. You need to mix it in very thoroughly and it will add tonnes of goodness and massively improve the structure of the growing medium. 
Option 2 - Add to your existing compost.
A more economical way to boost your compost mix is to add specially treated, concentrated organic matter, such as chicken manure pellets or concentrated farmyard manure, available in most good garden centres. This adds instant nutrients to the compost. Consider also adding perlite or vermiculite which will increase airflow around the roots of plants.
Option 3 -  Replace entirely.
If pests and disease have become a problem, or you’ve gone several years without adding more compost, then you should consider replacing your entire compost. Use the old compost to add as mulch for flower beds or mixed borders. To re-fill your Vegepod, use 50:50 mix of loam-based (‘John Innes’) compost and any good quality compost. We prefer peat-free, it’s more sustainable and contains more nutrients. A particularly good peat free brand is Dalefoot, made from Sheep’s wool so has fantastic nutritional content and remains fibrous for a long periods of time.
VegeTip of the Month!
Try to rotate the crops you grow in your Vegepod year on year – if you keep growing the same things season after season, you’ll starve the soil of particular nutrients. Unless you continually replace your compost after each season,  you’re likely to be disappointed with the results.
Whichever method you go with, acting this autumn before the new sowing and planting season, is the sure-fire way to have continued growing success.