Compost Technology - Purveyors of fine manures

Dug's Seasonal Tips


Dr Derek Owen is enthusiastic about Super Dug Extra and Cuttings - and is finding lots of uses for them in his garden and is hoping you will too. Please read on ……

Spring tips

Dear Fellow Gardener

After a lifetimes work at the cutting edge of horticulture - no pun intended – it is time to take a rather belated retirement. My early professional life was spent working for The Agricultural Research Council at Bristol University where I gained my Ph D and where I met my wife Monica (also a chemist – and well known to all our customers as the helpful lady at the end of the phone for nearly 40 years). In 1969 we formed our first company Humus Products Limited to market innovative compost formulations I had developed for the professional commercial grower market. 1972 saw the introduction of the growing bag – and Percy Thrower told me they would never catch on when I tried to sell him some! Now with a variety of famous brands – most notably Super Dug Extra, Cluck! Cowpact, Paradise Seeds and Cutting Composts - all incorporated in the Compost Technology Group it is time to pass the day to day running of affairs to the next generation and into the hands of our eldest son D.M.A Owen who knows the business well having been brought up with it. He is also a Derek - so no name change there hopefully for another 40 years if you keep ordering. But he has asked me to keep writing these letters which have quite a following so you may go on hearing from me for a while yet – and don’t forget you can visit us and our garden at

Now let’s talk about Super Dug Extra and why it is so special. Suddenly it seems that fertilizers based on poultry manure have become “flavour of the month” and nearly every newspaper article and TV programme seems to be recommending them. This would have come as no great surprise to our ancestors who used vast quantities of Guano – the dried droppings of sea birds imported from South America - to feed the great kitchen gardens of the Victorian age. On my bookshelf I have several catalogues from the time and it seems that it began to arrive in the 1840’s when it was marketed under such names as Canary and Icthemic. When supplies became exhausted and trading patterns changed poultry manure became popular – particularly in the restricted war time years. There the technology remained with the manure being sold – as it still is by other producers today – simply after a drying process and with an analysis that was quite high in nitrogen but far too low in phosphate and potash. Canary Guano

The first advance in more than a century came when we developed and patented our process for correcting this fertilizer imbalance. Like many great ideas it proved so simple that one wonders why no one had thought of it before. In it the manure is divided into two streams one of which is dried, while the other is burnt (which produces heat to dry the first stream) and the ash so produced has an analysis of 0% nitrogen but about 20% each of phosphate and potash. Combining this ash with the first stream in the correct proportions produces a completely internally balanced 100% Organic Fertilizer product. The technology does not go cheap (unlike the canaries) and every 25Kg sack of final product starts its life as more than 100Kg of raw material – but the final product and the results it produces are worth it. Now available only as Super Dug Extra this patented process is the secret of its success, and it is the difference between the old Super Dug first developed in the 1950s and the current high technology – quite unique - Super Dug Extra.

The Super Dug Extra variety has now been on the market for some eight years and it is interesting to note that more and more new customers come to us by way of personal recommendation rather than through advertising, my thanks to you for spreading the word – please keep up the good work. To our new friends – however you find us - whether by recommendation, advertising or the internet I would like to say welcome, and I hope you find the above historical background and technical details to the product interesting.

The heading of this letter mentions finding lots of uses for our products in the garden and this is indeed the case. I am sure you too find interesting uses and here are just a few for Super Dug Extra (SDE for short) taken from my postbag. Several users have found that it makes an excellent Cat repellent when sprinkled at the outer edges of the garden – but against that a lady complained that foxes loved it and had torn all her bags open presumably looking for the chickens! Obviously when used in its main role as a solid garden fertilizer it is superb, but it also makes an excellent Organic liquid fertilizer for feeding fruit, flowers and plants in pots or containers. Simply fill a cloth bag – or even better an old pair of tights – with SDE and immerse it in a container of water and leave for about a week. Use about 2-3 pounds to a gallon of water. After straining you will have a dark brown humus rich solution and seeing this does emphasise to you the inherent organic power of Super Dug Extra ! Use this concentrated liquid feed - high in nitrogen and potash - at dilutions in the range 5:1 to 20:1. SDE produces remarkable results when used as a Lawn fertilizer although it is wise to be sparing when spreading as it is quite potent. It is also a most efficient Compost activator and will greatly speed up the rotting down time when making your own garden compost – as well as giving it a healthy fertilizer boost. Simply sprinkle a thin layer every 6 inches throughout the heap as it builds up, alternatively mix it loosely with the unrotted material when adding it to the pile. Many people have remarked not only how effective Super Dug Extra is as a Clay breaker but that it also gives essential body to sandy soils as well as supplying the potash these soils often lack. Finally to make an Organic based Potting Compost mix SDE with sieved garden soil at a rate of 2-3 ounces to a gallon bucket of soil. I hope you find these suggestions useful. I have used them all in my own garden with the exception of repelling intruding cats, which is the responsibility of my trusty hounds Walter and Wilson. However you use it do not forget that Super Dug Extra has a Neutral pH and can be safely and effectively used in its main role as an Organic fertilizer on all plant species. Use from 2 ozs per sq yd on lawns to as much as 2 lbs per sq yd on heavy clay soils, and remember now is the ideal time for application before Spring and Summer plant growth make heavy demands on your soil.

Super Dug Extra is superb and no garden should be without it. Rightly it is the UK’s favourite organic fertilizer produced by a unique patented process to concentrate the natural nutrients present. But being such a powerful and effective fertilizer there is a limit to how much you can add without overfeeding – hence the benefit of also using Cuttings products which can all be added in large quantities for a massive humus boost. The most popular Cuttings product for all year round use is the black humus rich Traditional Compost but with Spring almost here also consider ordering a bag or two of Spring Green which acts as a high nitrogen Spring tonic for the whole garden and is also ideal for year round use on lawns. All Purpose Compost for use direct from the bag in pots and trays for your seeds and plants is obviously also a must at this time of year. Finally perhaps also look ahead and order some Autumn Gold to add potash lost by the Winter rains, and prolong flowering of shrubs and borders later in the year. It is also superb for year round use on lime hating species such as azaleas and rhododendrons.

Spring GreenWe know that many Super Dug users already use Cuttings products – and vice versa - and seeing the benefits of both in our own garden over many years has convinced us that all users would see similar results. As already mentioned you can see our garden at and you can find full details of all products on this website where you can order online. To improve customer service we have now introduced two local call rate telephone numbers.
We can also offer overnight delivery of Super Dug Extra in England & Wales at an additional cost of £6 per sack – please inform us if this is required, or choose it at the checkout if ordering online. Standard delivery remains free.

Turning now to Cutting Composts Products. If you order this year your order number will begin with 26 which indicates that it is the twenty sixth year that Cuttings has been based in the Marches following nearly fifty years in Lincolnshire – quite a heritage. Over the years a number of products have been added to the range. Some have been around for many years such as Cuttings Traditional Compost while others such as our more recently developed innovative horticultural products – Spring Green and Autumn Gold – have transformed seasonal gardening in the 1990’s for their users. The blending of tradition with the latest scientific advances is quite an art, and this is where Cutting Composts customers – for many years - have had such an advantage. Meticulously prepared state of the art gardening products unavailable elsewhere – all delivered direct to the door. It is a proud record, and one we hope to maintain, and for a small company we spend a quite disproportionate amount of money and resources on product development but this policy of continual improvement is vital to maintain our tradition of horticultural innovation.

Developing new gardening products is where Cutting Composts have unrivalled experience having produced the first ever mail order compost some seventy years ago. You know it well and possibly your father or grandfather also used it back in the heady pre-war days of the 1930’s ! Now in the twenty first century we still make it in the same painstaking manner as when old Mr Cutting (now long since deceased) first prepared it in his garden in Stamford in Lincolnshire. Now marketed as Cutting’s Traditional Compost, it is the same complex mixture of fertilizers, soil improvers and organic matter, rich in nitrogen, phosphate and potash that has been a standby for generations of gardeners to improve soil structure and all round fertility.

In recent years other Cutting’s products have arrived on the scene. For example Spring Green Compost which celebrated its anniversary recently. Introduced in our January 1991 brochure its formula was based on a Victorian recipe but with modern technical advances. Basically it is a combination of nitrogen fertilizers together with iron all incorporated in a finely milled organic compost base. Because modern technology enables fertilizers to release according to temperature Spring Green can be applied at any time from January onwards and the nutrients will become available exactly as required i.e. as the soil warms up and plant growth begins. Primarily designed for use on lawns it is also a useful product where it is necessary to dramatically increase nitrogen in the soil – as at the present time – after last years washout.

One product that gives me particular pride is our All Purpose Compost and I say this because it is the one product in our range that has competition from products in the DIY sheds, and yet – after Traditional Compost – it is our largest seller. Manufacturing for the commercial grower market is a very hard discipline because if every sack you make is not perfect it will stick out like a sore thumb in acres of crops in a giant glasshouse and you could face massive compensation claims. There is no such constraint on the mass produced products you will see being sold cheaply in the sheds, and these are usually built down by the manufacturers to a price the multiples are willing to pay. This is a road we have always been unwilling to travel and we make all our products to the highest and most stringent standards irrespective of raw material costs, and I think it is something that every customer should expect. Clearly our All Purpose Compost users have decided that when they invest so much time and money in raising plants then it is essential to complete the process by using the finest composts available and this is why sales of this product have rocketed in recent years. Use All Purpose for raising plants from seeds or cuttings in trays and for general potting in pots containers and baskets. A complete growing medium. Use direct from the bag. Acclaimed by many councils – including two winners of Britain in Bloom - for their brilliant displays in tubs and hanging baskets.

Our final product is just as interesting and incorporates Autumn Goldboth the old and the very latest technology. Cutting’s Autumn Gold is a seasonal dressing formulated from composted manures sugars and a high potash fertilizer. Initially designed to prolong the gardening year by extending the growing season in late Autumn it has also been found useful to protect delicate subjects from Spring frosts. Acts primarily as a mulch but bacterial action promoted by the sugars present gives a temperature lift at root level - while the potash is utilized to enhance flowering for up to four weeks longer than usual. The technique is similar to that used by the Victorians in their pineapple houses and is thus redolent of another age. Autumn Gold’s slightly acid nature means it is ideal to use on lime hating subjects such as rhododendrons and azaleas. Use in the same way as Traditional Compost for general manuring, digging in, mulching trees and shrubs, and top dressing fruit and vegetable beds.


Best Wishes Derek and Meirion Owen - and Walter and Wilson

PS Please remember that whilst it is very versatile Super Dug Extra is also 100% organic. A truly natural material enhanced by modern technology “ Nature Perfected ! ” We think even the Victorians would be impressed.

Walter and Wilson say 'Woof'!