This garden expert's secret will help you avoid a common compost mistake

Plant success depends on the right soil type – here's how Arthur Parkinson gets it right

Spring bulb planter ideas
(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer Styling Pippa Blenkinsop)

Potted plants are a staple of many patios, balconies, and urban gardens – but you may be making a planting mistake, according to Arthur Parkinson. 

Author Arthur Parkinson learned the art of planting at Kew Gardens before mastering his technique alongside Sarah Raven. He is currently the gardener at the Emma Bridgewater pottery factory and the author behind two books, including The Flower Yard: Growing Flamboyant Flowers in Containers. Therefore, when it comes to container garden ideas, you can trust his advice. 

In an interview, the expert revealed that the success of your potted plant depends on using the right soil type. And while you may be tempted to opt solely for compost, Arthur explains that using it exclusively is a mistake. Here's what you need to do instead.

Arthur Parkinson's potted plant compost secret  

Patio planting ideas with herbs in a small patio with bistro table and chairs.

(Image credit: Future / Spike Powell)

'In a pot situation, compost can become lifeless, so if you can include some real soil, it really helps to bring it together,' Arthur says. You can borrow soil from your garden; however, the expert also recommends another (unlikely) source of enrichment. 

'If you're on a walk and you see a molehill, take some molehill soil home in a bag for life and mix it in with your shop-bought compost,' he suggests.

While this garden idea may initially sound unconventional, Arthur explains that it has lots of micronutrients and organisms – all of which are perfect for keeping your plant alive. 

Patio planting ideas with a wide range of potted herbs and plants.

(Image credit: Future / Tim Young)

'It's something I started doing a few years ago after buying cheap supermarket compost,' he says. Potted plants are self-contained environments, so introducing this natural goodness is one of the best things you can do for your greenery. 

If you have moles in your own garden, it is a good idea to take as mix the molehill soil in as much compost as possible – to ensure your plants blossom for a long time to come. However, if you're picking it up whilst on your walk, fear not. A little bit goes a long way. 

Arthur Parkinson's unorthodox small garden ideas don't end there. He also urges you to experiment with seaweed fertilizer when the warmer weather arrives. However, in the meantime, we'll be packing our carrier bags for our next hike.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.