Your gardening questions answered: What’s the best peat-free seed compost for my garden?

A good quality peat-free seed compost ideally should ideally be friable and finely textured to maximise the chances of successful germination

Q: Could you please recommend a good peat-free seed compost? I’ve tried a few over the last few years but haven’t had great results. I’d really like to do the right thing environmentally but am now at the point where I’m sorely tempted to go back to using a conventional peat-based compost. CF County Kerry

A: Sadly you’re not the only gardener struggling to source a good quality peat-free alternative to traditional peat-based seed composts. While the standard has slowly but surely improved over the last number of years, there’s still a bewildering variety of poor-quality products out there that are unlikely to result in a high rate of germination and strong healthy seedlings.

Let’s start by looking at what a good quality seed compost ideally should ideally be. First and foremost, it needs to be friable and finely textured (so no lumps or coarse matter) to maximise the chances of successful germination and quick, healthy root growth.

No seed or seedling likes to sit in a cold, wet, heavy growing medium for too long so it also needs to be light and free-draining. Baby seedlings also don’t like or need a high-nutrient growing medium (this also inhibits germination) so it shouldn’t be too fertile. All of the above is also why, as counterintuitive as it sounds, it’s not a good idea to use ordinary garden soil which will produce very mixed results and greatly increase the risk of seedlings succumbing to the common but deadly disease known as ‘damping off’.


One option (environmentally the ideal) is to make your own seed compost, using a 50:50 mix of well-rotted leaf mould and home-made garden compost put through a fine garden riddle/sieve to remove any coarse material.

But not everyone has the opportunity or means to make their own garden compost and leaf mould. Even if you do, it’s not always easy to produce enough to meet your annual seed-sowing needs, all of which brings us back to commercially produced seed-composts.

Of the various peat-free brands that I’ve experimented with over the years, the only one I’ve found so far that always passes with flying colours is the German-made Klasmann-Deilmann brand.

Approved for organic use, its peat-free seed compost is made from a mix of organic coco coir and high-quality composted green waste enriched with biodynamic preparations to help stimulate beneficial micro-organism activity as well as specially-added predatory mites to help protect baby seedlings from damage by fungus gnats (also known sciarid flies).

It’s beautifully friable, light, fluffy and free-draining and always produces reliably good results. It’s also inexplicably hard to source. I’ve yet to find an Irish garden centre that stocks it but you can order it online from and . You’ll have to pay extra for delivery, but it’s worth every penny.

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Fionnuala Fallon

Fionnuala Fallon

Fionnuala Fallon is an Irish Times contributor specialising in gardening