• • Comfrey – the organic gardeners best friend – a ‘dynamic accumulator’ packed with nutrients is added into the Wool Compost range
    • ‘Bocking 14’ variety has high levels of potassium, phosphorous & nitrogen for healthy plant growth, larger flowers & bigger crops
    • Comfrey now being grown sustainably at Dalefoot farm as company scales up peat-free compost production to supply many more garden centres and nurseries across the UK, plus online for home delivery
    • Bracken for Dalefoot’s products sourced from Exmoor, Northumberland & Wales, helping farming communities & local biodiversity further afield

    Dalefoot Composts, the Lake District peat-free compost maker, has added comfrey into its peat-free Wool Compost range giving an extra super charge of nutrients and trace elements for blooming, healthy plants.

    Now 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 Ericaceous1.

    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.

    The company is also now sourcing 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 wool for the compost means they have a market for a product they struggle to sell.

    Dalefoot’s peat-free products are unique as they use a fully-traceable, sustainable blend of wool, bracken and now comfrey to make composts for every gardening need. Wool releases a steady stream of nitrogen and other must-have nutrients which, when combined with bracken and comfrey, means no further feed is required over the growing season.

    Professor Jane Barker of Dalefoot Composts said: “Comfrey is a truly remarkable plant offering a multitude of uses and we’re excited to grow it right here on the farm for our compost. We’ll be looking at how we can use it in other products for the gardener in the future.

    “Our farm’s bees, insects and wildlife are also benefitting from the biodiversity boost the new comfrey fields and their nectar-rich flowers bring to the local environment.”

    Over the past 12 months, compost production has doubled at Dalefoot, with 177 garden centres and nurseries now stocking its products.

    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.

  • Interested starting a snowdrop collection, but not sure where to start?

    Well now’s the time as the easiest way to plant snowdrops is ‘in the green’ just after flowering.

    Try following these suggestions from Margaret and David MacLennan, who hold the National Collection of Galanthus with Scientific status:

    ‘If you are thinking of moving on from the common snowdrop, the choice can be daunting. There are so many to choose from and the cost can be eyewatering with new introductions sometimes exchanging hands for hundreds of pounds on eBay.

    A good starter that won’t break the bank is Galanthus Magnet. It grows well in most conditions and will soon bulk up, making a definite statement at the front of the border.

    If you are looking for something a bit more exotic go for Galanthus John Gray. It was the pursuit of a single bulb of this beautiful hybrid that set Margaret on the path to the collection of more than 2000 varieties that we have today.

    Once you start browsing the websites of specialist snowdrop suppliers like Avon Bulbs, you will find that there are endless choices. There are Galanthus that come into flower as early as September and some that wait till April. If you like the idea of something a bit special how about one of the yellow ones? This is ‘Wendy’s Gold’ found at an Iron Age site on the outskirts of Cambridge.

    Remember, the older, well established varieties of snowdrops that cost less can be full of character and beauty. They are usually not too fussy about where they grow. The light shade under a deciduous shrub or tree is ideal. They need to see the sky and feel the rain when they are in flower. Grow them in lattice pots sunk in the ground or in sand frames as we do – with Dalefoot Compost!’

    For other suppliers of snowdrops in the green try: www.ashwoodnurseries.com or

  • 28 January 2021

    Dare to dream big…

    Giant marrow seed ready to sow
    Caption: Giant marrow seed ready to sow
    Kevin with last year’s marrow which he harvests seed from
    Caption: Kevin with last year’s marrow which he harvests seed from
    Getting sowing in Kev’s greenhouse using Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds
    Caption: Getting sowing in Kev’s greenhouse using Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds
    Kevin holding his Guinness World Record for a beetroot and his giant beetroot at Chelsea
    Caption: Kevin with his World Record giant beetroot at Chelsea

    If you’re poring over seed catalogues at the moment, you’re not alone. Looking for the something different to see you through lockdown three? Well, why not try growing giant veg? Kevin Fortey - a world record holder and giant veg legend knows more than most mortals about how to grow an absolute whopper.

    Whether it’s a marrow, carrot, leek or runner bean, Kevin is always happy to talk about every aspect of the giant veg world including the importance of nutrient-rich healthy soil. Of course, his formulas are closely guarded but we’re delighted that somewhere in the mix he includes Dalefoot Compost which he trials for us.

    If we’ve whetted your appetite, you might like to know that Kevin grew an absolute monster marrow in 2020 (190 lbs) which was featured on the One Show much to delight of the Hairy Bikers who were guests! He says that interest in growing giant vegetables has increased throughout the Coronavirus crisis and puts this down to people having more time at home and being able to focus on the garden. Kevin’s the first to admit that giant veg growing can become an obsession but in lockdown this can create a perfect ‘escape’ from the world outside.

    He’s been delighted by the surge in interest and the demand for seeds is increasing. Soon, he will sow his first parsnips, carrots and cabbage. We’ll feature some more of Kevin’s advice on growing giant veg later in the spring. Now is not the time to sow marrow or runner bean seeds as it’s too early and too cold but it is a good time to think about choosing seeds and dreaming of warmer times and a perhaps a giant marrow in your garden.

    You can find out more and buy seed at ‘www.giantveg.co.uk’ and if you’d like to purchase Dalefoot Wool Compost for Seeds please visit our website shop.

  • 04 January 2021

    A snowdrop for everyone

    Galanthus ‘Trumps’, in Dalefoot Compost
    Caption: Galanthus ‘Trumps’, in Dalefoot Compost
    Snowdrops thriving in Dalefoot Composts.
    Caption: Snowdrops thriving in Dalefoot Composts.

    ‘Most gardeners will have a place for snowdrops and there must be a snowdrop for everyone…’
    …So say Margaret and David MacLennan who hold part of the National Collection for Galanthus (Snowdrops). They have more than 1500 different varieties of snowdrop at their nursery, including species and named varieties and encourage us all to share in this passion.

    Of course, January is the time for admiring snowdrops, rather than planting them. The first weeks of the New Year are perfect to get outside and either find a spot in your own garden that could accommodate some or get inspired to add some new varieties for next year.

    For those of you who read our blog last year about Margaret and David’s Snowdrop Collection, you’ll know they started trialing Dalefoot Composts in 2017 and have produced excellent results.

    Now, four years on, they’ve found that over time, Dalefoot has produced bigger bulbs and bigger, stronger and healthier plants compared to other composts. Not only that, when using Dalefoot they didn’t need to add any additional feed for the whole of the four years!

    So Dalefoot’s peat-free composts really do provide the perfect growing environment for snowdrops. If you’d like to start a collection of your own in your garden, the best time to plant is when they are freshly dug, either when the foliage is dying back in late spring or ‘in the green’ just after flowering. David and Margaret recommend using a mix of Wool Compost and Lakeland Gold. They say aim for a moist, well-drained planting pit with plenty of grit and incorporate a mix of Wool Compost and Lakeland Gold.

    They are now looking at using our products elsewhere in their garden. We’re just delighted to be contributing to their nationally significant collection of snowdrops.

  • ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way!’, by Sara Venn of Incredible Edible Bristol.

    Over this challenging year at Incredible Edible Bristol, we changed how we work to ensure the growing spaces we could access were as productive as possible. In the face of a food crisis not seen across the country since WW2, our core team of community gardeners set about growing as much food as possible and getting it to communities where food access had suddenly become more of a challenge than ever before.

    In our different gardens, we tailored the crops knowing that the communities they support have very different needs. In one space we know from working with the community that they love fresh runner beans, carrots and cabbages, broad beans in early summer, and peas for as much of the year as possible! Most of this food went to those who were shielding or was used in soup and was delivered to the vulnerable families and individuals in the area. We did this by co-ordinating with both the local community centre, who were doing collective shopping for those unable to do their own for whatever reason, and the local food bank.

    In other gardens we focused on getting food to individuals at risk of hunger and vulnerable families by collaborating with people who would prepare the vegetables and then deliver the produce, but to very different communities. Bristol has 91 languages and therefore 91 food cultures so we concentrated on a slightly more diverse harvest. Different squash, patty pans, spinach, oriental greens, chillies and garlic along with corn and kale were split between 5 organisations all cooking for people unable to get out or to access the foods they needed. Being able to offer this produce for free gave a boost to organisations already struggling to keep producing what they knew was needed for their communities.

    We are often asked about how we ensure food gets to the people who needed it, and we would always advise finding an organisation who provide hot meals to the community and give them the resources to do what they do!

    Our growing challenge was supported by Dalefoot who kindly provided us with some Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads and some Lakeland Gold following the Garden Press event in March, which really supported us to mulch areas we had not used before and led to us ordering 2 tonnes of their vegetables and salad compost for what then became our main space! You can see some of the results.

    If you’d like to donate to Incredible Edible Bristol, there is a donation button on our home page ediblebristol.org.uk

    Or if you would prefer to support a national organisation or a charity local to your area, Sara suggests looking for your local Fareshare who will put you in touch with organisations who will welcome both food and cash!!

    Sara Venn Incredible Edible Bristol and Juliet Fossey, Staff Writer, Dalefoot Composts.


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© Barker and Bland Ltd t/a Dalefoot Composts 2014 - 2021. All rights reserved.
Barker and Bland is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Dalefoot Farm, Heltondale, Nr Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2QL. Registered number: 8312959

This project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for which Defra is the Managing Authority, part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.

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