HOW TO MAKE JOHN INNES COMPOST




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Up until the beginning of the 20th century there were no ‘standard’ compost mixes for plants. In fact, before the introduction of John Innes Composts gardeners generally used a different compost for each species of plant they wanted to take cuttings from or pot up.

Usually the soil was neither sterilised or heat pasteurised and consequently plant seedlings were often attacked and destroyed by soil-borne diseases and insects.

In addition, the plant nutrition that was being added to the traditional composts were usually ‘unbalanced’, causing the plants to be either too soft in their growth and liable to diseases, or overly tough and slow growing.


In the 1930's two research workers at the John Innes Horticultural Institute, William Lawrence and John Newell, set out to overcome these problems by formulating composts that would give consistently good and reliable results. After six years of experiments they determined the physical properties and nutrition necessary in composts to achieve optimum rates of plant growth. They also introduced methods of heat sterilising the soil that eliminated pests and diseases, but did not cause any retardation of plant growth.


The result of this work was the introduction of two standard composts, one for seed sowing and one for potting. These "John Innes" composts revolutionised not only the ways in which composts were produced, but also the growing of plants in pots. Now, after being used very widely for over 50 years, the basic formulae remain the same - tried and tested and still popular amongst discerning gardeners for growing the best quality plants with the minimum of attention. Naturally, the plant nutrients have been updated to gain the benefits of improved fertiliser technology.

John Innes Composts are a blend of carefully selected loam or topsoil, sphagnum moss peat, coarse sand or grit and fertilisers. The loam is screened and sterilised and then thoroughly mixed with the other ingredients in proportions designed to achieve the optimum air and water-holding capacity and nutrient content for different types and sizes of plants.

John Innes Base Fertiliser is the name coined at the John Innes Research Institute in the 1930's for a ready mixed blend of hoof and horn, superphosphate and potassium sulphate for mixing with loam, peat and grit to make John Innes Loam-based Potting Composts.

The following lists gives the formulae for the Composts - the proportions of the substrate are measured by volume, with loam and peat passed through a 9mm sieve. For the No. 1,2 and 3 composts the John Innes base fertilizer consists of 2 parts Hoof and Horn for the Nitrogen (N), 2 parts Superphosphate for roots (P)and 1 part Potassium Sulphate (K) for flowers and fruit. This is balanced with one part ground limestone (CaCO3) to provide an optimum pH.

For growing seeds, cuttings and ericaceous or calcifuge plants (plants which require acidic conditions) the proportions vary and for the latter the ground limestone is replaced with an equal quantity of Flowers of Sulphur which lowers the pH.

Compost Substrate Fertilizer rates for the John Innes base are per each cubic metre of mixed compost.


John Innes No. 1

7 parts loam
3 parts peat

2 parts sand 0.6kg ground limestone

1.2kg hoof and horn,1.2kg superphosphate

600g Potassium Sulphate

John Innes No. 2

7 parts loam
3 parts peat

2 parts sand 0.6kg ground limestone

2.4kg hoof and horn

2.4kg superphosphate

1.2kg Potassium Sulphate

John Innes No. 3

7 parts loam
3 parts peat

2 parts sand 0.6kg ground limestone

3.6kg hoof and horn

3.6kg superphosphate

1.8g Potassium Sulphate


John Innes Seed Compost

2 parts loam
1 parts peat

1 part sand 600g ground limestone

1.2kg Superphosphate


John Innes Cutting Compost

1 parts loam
2 part peat

1 part sand no added fertilizer


John Innes Ericaceous Compost

2 parts loam
1 part peat

1 part sand 600g Flowers of Sulphur

1 part superphosphate


Mixing is more easily performed if the ingredients are not too moist so that the particles do not stick together and so become more evenly distributed. Storage should be kept to a minimum as the nutrient balance will change due to the Nitrogen being mineralised by bacteria to unavailable Nitrate (NO3=) ions.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE CLAY SOILS
HOW TO MAKE A LEAF MOULD COMPOST
HOW TO MAKE LIQUID FERTILIZER FROM COMFREY
WHAT ARE PLANT MACRONUTRIENTS AND MICRONUTRIENTS

4 comments:

den l said...

I don't even know where to begin...
I understand that you are interested in growing premium quality vegetables, but doing so at the expense of the environment defeats the purpose of doing so. The amount of industrial energy that goes into producing superphosphate, for example. Machines had to be built, chemicals manufactured, the electricity and materials required to build a processing plant, the machines that transport the materials and the fuel they consume, the land that was destroyed to create the buildings that the processing plant is situated on, and the land that was destroyed to get the materials to build the machines that build the factory... it goes on and on... this is just an example... the amount of 'embodied energy'... all the energy required to make all the parts throughout history that eventually lead up to having the tools and materials needed to make a bag of compost, that is dead, and has no microorganisms in it (which are the normal way that plants receive nutruents from their environment, as other critters break down compounds and transfer them to the plant, etc... too much to mention here.) All that energy so that you can have some sterile compost that has the right nutrients to grow what you want to grow in a tiny little area, with no diseases or pests... and look what has happened to the space outside of the garden. It is covered in concrete and processing plants, and giant mechanical separators, and vats of chemicals and all the things that went into making a bag of compost... One of the reasons soils get depleted and diseased is because there is no diversity there. Monoculture crops on bare earth deplete the soil. We have upset the balance with our modern agriculture and quick fix mentality, and now are looking for solutions with the same logic that caused the problems in the first place. It's OK if you get a pest or some disease on your plants, it is a sign that we've messed up the earth. We are not going to fix that by messing it up more with bandaids (manufactured compost, in this example). While the bandaid may help cover up the wound in front of us, it causes more wounds on the other side of the garden fence.
I don't mean to be a jerk, or say that anyone is a bad person, I'm just saying that looking for quick fix solutions is not going to help anything in the long run. Look into 'Permaculture' techniques if you want to maintain a 'healthy' system. The system goes way beyond the walls of your own personal garden.

Simon Eade said...

Permaculture - yawn. There is only enough food being produced in this country to feed approximately half its population. Permaculture is fine if you don't mind widespread global starvation. Permaculture is a luxury for those who do not have to earn money for their families, which allows them to time to spend their entire life devoted to producing enough organic food to feed their family all-year-round. Besides, how much industrial energy has gone into producing the laptop you are using, the car you drive, and everything else you own.

Dan L said...

@ Simon Eade
I don't intend on starting a debate here, but really, we, as humans, have gone way outside of our means to get to the point we're at right now. The country you (probably) speak of is overpopulated, and poorly managed, with way too many people doing ultimately pointless (novelty) things for work. In regards to people spending "their entire lives" on growing food, how many people do you know who spend that much time at a crappy job, just so they can continue waking up in the morning to go to work, to buy food, pay rent, etc... If more people grew their own food in a non-industrial way, maybe having a bit to share with someone else who also grows something... they wouldn't need to contribute so much to the 'consumer culture' which is, whether you like it or not, slowly destroying the planet we live on, at least more quickly than planting some veggies and making some compost. You're right that a lot of energy goes into producing GOOD food, but if more people did it, there would be enough to go around. It's not more work, it's different work... not sitting at a desk work, not serving fast food work, not even being an actor or a musician work, it's realising that we rely on this planet for life itself work, and it goes further than a paycheck. Hard to understand when you've been taught otherwise since the onset of 'conventional' (ie: world war 2) agriculture. Many chemical fertilizer and pesticides are byproducts of petrolium products, and the whole trend of using 'artificial' fertilizers started in the 1940s during WW2. Industrial agriculture and GMO's, etc, are not the way of the future... unless you envision the population looking more and more like sick robots.
If people didn't have to pay for their right to live, IE: pay rent (on stolen land, no less) then they would have much more free time to do things like be sustainable, and if the media didn't advertise sex to us while we're taught that it's wrong to be sexual, maybe it wouldn't be such a taboo draw, and 'cure' for boredom, and maybe their wouldn't be so many people having babies when they're not really ready to be parents. It's such a bigger picture than "Permaculture - yawn". Really, the way you commented, it sounds like you only know a bit of the puzzle. Maybe you're just jaded... but in all reality, industrialised nations are messing up the planet a lot, and thinking the way you seem to be thinking is doing no good.
And by the way... this is the first NEW laptop I've owned in 10 years, I don't drive, and I live quite simply, and enjoy it that way. And I'm not USUALLY preachy about it. And I don't take for granted the relatively humble modern luxuries I enjoy. Bla bla bla... Try growing something, it's not actually that much work at all... and it's really quite enjoyable!

Simon Eade said...

Seriously Dan, is the concept of going to work, paying taxes which provide funding for schools, hospitals, roads, pensions, police etc alien to you.

You live in a modern society. Opt out if you want but stop using my blog as a platform for regurgitating poorly thought out ideas which have been doing the rounds since the 1960's.

Yes the world is overpopulated, and run by evil corporations and corrupt governments. If you want to change it get an education and go into politics.

You accuse me of living in a poorly manage country, I guess that must make you American.