Using good quality compost before planting vegetables is important to improve soil quality and maximise your future crop. Have you ever wondered what is the best compost to buy for vegetable garden? Each brand of compost is made using a unique mix of ingredients but with the same purpose – to supply nutrients to your plants to optimize growth.
In this guide I’ll cover the types of compost you can use in your vegetable garden including bokashi, vermicast and homemade compost. I’ll also touch on the difference between organic compost and the best bagged compost to buy for vegetable gardens, including some of my own recommendations.
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How To Use Compost In Vegetable Garden
If you have read my beginners guide to vegetable gardening then you’ll already know how strongly I stress the importance of good soil to produce a successful garden! Adding compost for a garden plays a crucial role in creating this.
Choose a good quality compost from my review below and mix it through your existing garden soil at a ratio of 1:1, or one-third compost at a stretch.
The early fall season is the best time to do this, but that’s not to say you can’t add more compost to your garden throughout the year for an added nutrients boost. Adding compost to the top layer of your garden bed in fall will allow time for the compost to naturally break down in the soil by spring when you’re ready to think about planting.
I’ll recommend to you some of the best compost to buy for vegetable garden s later in this article.
On a side note, Sphagnum Peat Moss is another great option used by gardeners when preparing the soil for planting. It’s popular because of its positive results in preventing root rot, improving water retention and loosening heavy soils.
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Why is Compost Important?
When you consider what plants need to grow – sunlight, water and food. Compost provides this food.
During the season, plants take as much nutrients from the soil as possible in order to grow and produce. Therefore, this depleted soil needs to be replenished before each new planting to give the next season’s crop a chance to thrive. This is where compost plays an important role. Using compost in your vegetable garden adds these important nutrients and helps retain water in the soil.
Additionally, compost loosens tight particles in silt soil or clay so that the roots can drain water, spread, and let air penetrate easier. It also changes the structure of the soil which prevents the spread of disease.
Composting assists in recycling organic matter into a useful product for the garden. What’s more interesting is that it does not release harmful gasses into the atmosphere. Compost conditions the soil and attracts worms and beneficial microbes.
What is Organic Compost?
We have discussed the importance and use of compost in the vegetable garden, but what is the difference between non-organic and organic compost?
Both include a combination of decaying green and brown (carbon) matter such as food scraps, lawn clippings, manure, dead leaves and garden waste. When purchasing certified organic bagged compost you can be sure that there have been no toxins or pesticides on any of this material. Non-organic compost may contain artificial chemicals.
The main difference between organic bagged compost and non-organic bagged compost is the ingredients. Along with natural waste, non-organic compost can often contain a combination of peat moss, heated volcanic glass and expanded clay aggregate amongst other things. While organic compost is made of natural ingredients such as dead leaves, twigs, branches, vegetable waste, coffee grounds and lawn clippings.
Benefits of making your own organic compost
When making compost at home, using organic/natural matter from around your home is a great way to recycle scraps and garden waste and return it to your soil. Food scraps, lawn clippings and carbon material such as fallen leaves and twigs from your yard are great examples of organic materials you can add to your compost bin.
Creating your own organic compost is not only beneficial for plants but also reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfill each year. By creating your own compost or bokashi you also have control over what goes into your garden so you don’t have to worry about artificial chemicals or pesticides that could be in non-organic bagged soil.
You can always opt to buy compost if you don’t have enough time to create your own compost (the composting process can take 3-6 months). I will discuss the best organic compost to buy for vegetable gardens further on in this article.
What is the Best Compost to Use in the Garden
Best homemade compost for vegetable garden: how to make the best compost for vegetable garden
The most cost-effective way to have a steady supply of compost is to make it yourself. The three main ingredients needed to make homemade compost are green materials which are abundant in nitrogen, brown material for carbon, and water for moisture.
For a more in-depth guide on how to make compost at home, check out my composting 101 guide here.
Green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps as well as grass, weeds, and even manure. For brown matter, you can use twigs, paper, branches, leaves and much more. Try to ensure you have an even 50:50 ratio of nitrogen to carbon material in your compost pile.
Where to place your compost bin is the next consideration as compost needs a good amount of heat to decompose efficiently.
The final element for successful composting is water, but only a light sprinkle from time to time when you notice it looking dry (Sodden compost will just rot!)
The composting process will take 3-6 months to break down. Regularly aerating your compost pile with a garden fork will allow more air into the compost and speed up this decomposition time so it will be closer to the 3-month end.
Adding an organic compost starter or bokashi bran to your compost at home is another option to help hasten the composting process. A starter contains fungi and bacteria that accelerate the decomposition of organic waste.
The activity of millions of beneficial microbes is what creates heat in a compost pile as well as the sun. Heat combined with oxygen enables the organic materials in the pile to break down over time. Choosing the right spot to place your compost bin ensures your compost pile has a good source of heat.
Bokashi is a Japanese word for “fermented organic matter. This composting method is different from traditional homemade composting but also reuses organic matter from around the home.
In a nutshell, Bokashi composting ferments kitchen scraps using bokashi bran containing effective microbes. In addition to the compost itself, the liquid byproduct from the bokashi can be used as a liquid fertilizer for plants.
Smaller than a compost bin, bokashi composting isn’t useful for composting large garden waste. However, it is great because almost ALL kitchen scraps can be added to a bokashi bin, including chicken bones, dairy, food scraps as well as your usual fruit and veggie scraps. This ensures there is very little organic food waste leaving the kitchen to end up in landfill.
Adding Bokashi compost to your vegetable garden will develop rich and healthy soil after just four weeks compared to 3-6 months for a compost bin.
Some people are not fond of touching worms but the more of these little creatures in your garden, the healthier your soil! These small invertebrates are mini composters.
Vermicompost or worm compost is a process that uses worms to convert biodegradable waste into rich soil. Additionally, these worms produce worm castings (aka worm poo) which are a valuable source of humus for your garden.
Using worm compost reduces odour compared to traditional composts. Red wigglers are the most recommended type of worms used in this process. They are competent in breaking down organic materials and can completely adapt to manure.
● Bagged Compost
There is a huge variety of different bagged compost options to buy. Each is designed for a specific purpose in the garden and contains different ingredients in varying amounts, such as Sphagnum Peat Moss, garden compost, organic material, manure, mushroom compost, sheep droppings and worm castings.
If you don’t have months to create your own compost then buying bagged compost is the next best thing to get your vegetable garden started.
Several gardeners also use alfalfa meal in their vegetable garden soil. It serves as a soil amender and is an efficient fertilizer for plants.
Further on in this article, I’ll talk more about the best bagged compost for vegetable gardening.
Where to Buy Compost for Vegetable Garden?
Bagged compost is an ideal option for those who can’t make their own compost at home. Bagged compost can be purchased online through Amazon or from your local garden centre or hardware store.
● Organic Compost
Organic composts are rich in organic matter, materials and nutrients. By definition, organic compost must include material that was once living. Organic soil can therefore include decaying plant matter broken down by microorganisms and worms.
There are no unnatural materials used in certified organic compost and it will not contain any pesticides or toxins.
Organic compost amends the soil to create the optimum environment for your vegetable plants. It helps enhance the soil and also prevents plants from getting disease or attracting pests.
The most important characteristic of organic compost is that it alleviates the use of synthetic chemicals in your plants and produce.
You can find the best organic compost for vegetable gardens through my review below and try different ones out for yourself.
What to Look Out for When Buying Compost
If you prefer buying compost rather than making it, here are a few things to look out for to ensure you are buying a good one.
The best compost to buy for a vegetable garden should have a moist, dark, powdery composition. Also, make sure that it doesn’t smell bad or have any scent of chemicals – it should smell sweet.
Always check the list of ingredients on the bag to see what the mix is comprised of. Ideally, you want as much natural matter in there as possible.
If you are looking for the best organic compost for vegetable gardening then there should be a label stating that the compost is certified organic.
4 Best Bagged Compost to Buy for Vegetable Garden (Not Certified Organic)
What Compost to Buy for Vegetable Garden
Good compost contributes to the healthy growth of your plants so it’s important to choose a good one. If you’re looking for a good go-to brand of compost, here is my list of the best bagged compost for vegetable gardens.
These are the reasons why I chose the products listed below:
- Have high ratings from fellow gardeners
- Easy to apply
- Efficient and versatile (a good allrounder for the garden)
One of the best bagged compost mixes for the vegetable garden includes Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost. Its main focus is on strengthening plants for optimal growth. Made on the farm, this blend is natural, non-GMO and biodynamic. Add to a potting mix or straight into a garden bed, this is a great all-round compost.
Ingredients include organic dairy cow manure and a mixture of straw and plants found on a dairy farm.
Michigan Peat contains both compost and manure. It has a mix of organic sedge peat that gives healthy nutrients to plants.
Organic reed sedge peat moss is high-quality topsoil used to amend the soil bed. It improves the soil and produces more nutrients to help in the development of the plants.
If you’re looking for a more affordable compost, Charlie’s Compost is a great option. This product has been tested and proven by many gardeners over the years. It’s easy to use and versatile for different types of plants; not only for vegetables, but also for flowers.
This is a locally produced compost made from chicken manure.
Dr Earth is a multi-purpose compost used to amend the soil before planting vegetables. It is also suitable for flowers, trees, shrubs, and more.
This compost contains 100% natural ingredients including valley-grown alfalfa meal, water kelp meal, cold water kelp, organic matter and earthworm castings.
Why is Organic Compost Best For Vegetable Gardening?
In general, organic compost is considered the best compost for vegetable gardening. Although all compost delivers many benefits for the soil, the organic compounds and pesticide/toxin-free nature of organic compost are still unmatched for vegetable plants.
Why is organic compost ideal for vegetables? It contains nutrients from both brown and green materials and millions of beneficial microorganisms. Mother nature is unmatched when it comes to knowing what vegetables need for their development and successful growth.
Replenishing the nutrients in the soil after each harvest is necessary to grow healthy, productive plants for the coming season. Because plants use what is in the soil to create fruit & veggies, if the soil is full of toxins then essentially this transfers into the produce we eat. This is why choosing the best organic compost to buy for vegetable garden is so important.
3 Best Organic Compost For Vegetable Garden (Certified Organic)
If you can afford a little bit extra, certified organic compost mixes are the best for growing organic produce. Applying good quality organic compost to the soil ensures optimal results. The bagged compost varieties I have listed below are my top picks for the best organic compost for vegetables.
Here are the reasons why to buy organic compost and why I chose these three brands:
- Easy to apply
- Useful for all kinds of plants
- Good value for money
- OMRI ( Organic Materials Review Institute) certified organic
- Tested and proven results
Organic Compost for Plants
Gardeners highly recommend Blue Ribbon as the best organic compost for vegetable gardens. It enhances soil aeration, improves soil structure and encourages water retention.
Additionally, you can ensure that this compost is OMRI certified organic and is safe to use in any concentration in gardens, lawns, or under fruit trees. This compost is regularly tested to ensure it’s free from weed seed.
If you’re looking for great worm compost, Earth Worm Castings is the best choice. This worm by-product is comprised of organic cow manure-fed earthworm castings. Made by industrious wiggler and red earthworms! A clean and odourless compost that can be added directly to vegetable garden soil.
This organic wiggle worm soil builder also includes a recipe on how to create homemade liquid compost tea from worm castings. Great for daily use to give plants an extra nutrients boost!
Jobe’s Organics Compost Starter is made of organic matter that contains Biozome. This component assists the soil in absorbing the nutrients for vegetable plants. It prevents pests and diseases and is easy to use.
OMRI certified organic using 100% organic compost ingredients.
Add this compost starter to your home compost to speed up the composting process. You should see results in just 2-3 weeks.
Final Thoughts: Best Compost to Buy for Vegetable Garden
Deciding the best compost to buy for vegetable gardens can be daunting. Remember that using compost in your vegetable garden is important to ensure that your crops thrive. Not only will it aerate and loosen soil, but it also allows better water retention.
Choose the best bagged and organic compost and it will bring out the best in your vegetable garden.
About the Author
Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.