A peat-free compost range made from sheep’s wool, bracken – and now comfrey – by Dalefoot Composts in the Lake District has been shortlisted for the first ever RHS Chelsea Sustainable Garden Product of the Year Award.
Dalefoot Wool Compost with Comfrey, launched earlier this year by the Penrith-based firm, is one of ten shortlisted products to be recognised for their green credentials in this prestigious RHS competition*.
Family-owned Dalefoot Composts spent five years perfecting the addition of comfrey, a plant superfood, into its popular peat-free Wool Compost range. Known as the organic gardener’s best friend, comfrey has high levels of potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen for healthy plant growth, larger flowers and bigger crops.
Comfrey is now grown sustainably at Dalefoot farm near Heltondale as a commercial crop allowing the company to scale up peat-free compost production to supply many more garden centres and nurseries across the UK, plus online for home delivery. Blending comfrey into the composts complements the company’s on-farm approach to no-till soil management, adds structure and additional flowers and biodiversity to the landscape benefitting insects and pollinators, and, importantly from a horticultural perspective, provides increased nutrient content in the final compost product.
Professor Jane Barker of Dalefoot Composts said: “As firm believers in true sustainability – social, economic and environmental – our team is over the moon to get this recognition and be shortlisted. We take real care to employ environmental best practice at Dalefoot, from the sourcing and harvesting of ingredients, to packaging and delivery. Our premium products also provide gardeners with a sustainable alternative to using environmentally damaging peat in their outdoor spaces.”
With a hat-trick of performance-packed natural ingredients – comfrey, bracken and sheep’s wool – the Wool Compost range feeds plants for at least a season, requires less watering, as wool cleverly retains moisture, and is Soil Association-approved for organic gardening. Wool Compost is available in Potting, Seeds, Vegetables & Salads, Tomatoes, Double Strength and Ericaceous**.
The company sources bracken from Exmoor, Northumberland and Wales, as well as locally in Cumbria – helping a diversity of farming communities and local landscapes. Bracken is an invasive plant but when harvested sustainably and composted, provides rich potash for plants and acts as a fantastic soil conditioner. Sheep farmers are benefitting too as supplying undipped wool for the compost means they have a market for a product they struggle to sell. Dalefoot is a significant local employer and is Living Wage-accredited, and it also restores damaged peat bogs for organisations such as Natural England and the wildlife trusts.
Over the past 12 months, compost production has doubled at Dalefoot, with more than 175 garden centres and nurseries now stocking its products.
For further information contact Emma Mason on firstname.lastname@example.org 07762 117433
Comfrey is renowned in the gardening world for being a plant superfood. It has very long roots so is able to absorb nutrients deep in the soil as it grows, and when harvested and then added to compost or a traditional comfrey tea, the nutrients give a growing ‘kick’ to other plants, encouraging strong, healthy growth. The introduction of comfrey to the compost mix marks the culmination of a five-year project by the Dalefoot team to grow the plant on a commercial scale, sustainably on the farm, and harness its extraordinary qualities. The fast-growing comfrey crop can be harvested four times a year, so there is plenty on tap to meet rising demand for the company’s premium composts in the future.
Dalefoot’s story – The entrepreneurial couple behind Dalefoot, environmental scientist Professor Jane Barker and farmer Simon Bland, started making compost from the natural ingredients around their Cumbrian farm in 1997. Inspired by early 20th century gardening books that mentioned wool as a garden mulch, and a desire to make good use of the invasive bracken growing on the fells, the couple invented their secret compost recipe, bagged the product up themselves and started selling at local farmers’ markets. Twenty years later the compost is sold across the UK and the business employs 18 local people, and sources bracken and wool from farmers.
The range is available online at www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk from £11.99 per bag down to £8.50 each for orders of 50 bags plus delivery, and also from a growing list of stockists. Tel: 01931 713281 Email: email@example.com
Peat bogs – The Dalefoot team also restores peat bogs, some of which were once owned by peat compost companies, across the UK for the likes of Natural England, NatureScot, South West Water and wildlife trusts. Peat bogs store more carbon than forests and many in the UK are now in poor condition, releasing carbon rather than just storing it. To date, this work equates to 1 million tonnes of carbon emissions – equivalent to 500,000 flights from London to New York – saved since Dalefoot started two decades ago.
* About RHS Chelsea Sustainable Garden Product of the Year – The RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden Product of the Year was launched in 2011 to recognise the best new garden products at the show. In line with the ever increasing importance to ensure products offer sustainable solutions, the 2021 competition will award the RHS Chelsea Sustainable Garden Product of the Year for the first time. Other shortlisted products include New Vegebag by Vegepod UK, Composting Loo by Green Oak and Ocean Plastic Pots, made from discarded rope and fishing net. An expert judging panel will consider environmental sustainability as well as innovation, visual appeal, functionality and quality and the winner will be announced during Virtual Chelsea (17 – 21 May). A trophy presentation will take place on Press Day at RHS Chelsea Flower Show now being held in September.
** Wool Compost Ericaceous, Lakeland Gold and Bulb Compost do not contain comfrey