Wondering what is the best compost for the garden or how to choose compost for your plants? Well, in this guide to choosing the best compost for garden enthusiasts, we have an in-depth review of soil types for growing vegetables and flowers. We know that choosing the right compost enriches your soil and helps produce a better yield overall.
If you are a gardening enthusiast, you have probably thought about how to add compost to your garden soil. Not all garden composts are the same; there is a multitude of varieties that bring different benefits to your garden soil structure. Some garden compost is better suited to different plant types. This guide will help you pick the best compost for your garden that help your plants thrive.
What Are The Benefits Of Adding Compost To Your Garden Soil
There are many benefits of adding compost to your garden. Along with it being environmentally friendly and providing extra nutrients to the soil structure, it also deters pests and diseases. Below we have outlined some of the key benefits of mixing soil in your vegetable garden with organic compost.
Enriches the soil – When you add compost, it improves soil structure by introducing beneficial bacteria that create Humus. Humus is a nutrient-rich substance that is formed from waste in the compost. Vital nutrients feed your plants, promote root growth and root health, and help in improving soil structure.
Suppresses plant diseases – The best organic compost will contain bacteria and fungi that actively prevent plant diseases. The organic matter in your garden soil means you can avoid harmful chemicals.
Eco-friendly – Using chemical fertilizers can be harmful to the environment, so a great idea to help combat that is to use your own compost instead. Organic compost is a great alternative that is sustainable, and you can even make your own compost utilizing your kitchen scraps.
Water retention – Compost aids in water retention, meaning that soil will hold water and enhance root growth. The increased water retention of compost will reduce the need for more frequent watering. Water retention also reduces garden soil erosion which maintains nutrient-rich soil.
Different Types Of Composts That Are Available
The best compost to buy for a vegetable garden really depends on the type of growing you are doing. There are many different types of composts available, from store-bought bagged compost to composts you create yourself. The best compost for your garden will depend on what you want to do with it. Many gardeners will be confused about what is available and so below is a quick guide to the different types of composts.
Composted manure has been used for years as a natural way to provide essential nutrients to help plants grow. Cow manure is the most commonly found. However, manure from poultry, horses, and sheep can also be used.
Organic Peat Moss Compost
Organic peat moss is made from a base of peat blended with other organic materials such as fertilizers, sand, and perlite. Peat can take years to grow, though, and it produces a lot of carbon to harvest, so most people opt for free peat moss now. Look for a label that states the compost has no peat moss inside it.
All Purpose Compost
A completely versatile all-purpose compost comes with a mixture of organic materials like wood chips, grass, and plant materials. Multi-purpose compost can be used in a garden bed, pots, and various other places in the garden. It can also be used in both indoor and outdoor containers.
If you are a gardener who wants to only deal with organic material, then organic compost will be for you. Made from organic matter only, this is especially useful when growing vegetables. Organic vegetable crops cannot be marketed as such if they have not also been grown in organic compost. The organic materials review institute is responsible for certified organic compost labeling.
How To Create Your Own Compost
Whether you have a larger garden or a smaller one, you can find the right place for your compost pile. Bins help reduce the odor that can come from the compost pile. However, you can build your own out of wooden pallets. The compost pile in your garden can be contained by cinder blocks and wood if you want something more natural.
To make compost you need a mix of nitrogen-rich and carbon materials. Nitrogen materials are usually green, and carbon materials are usually brown. You will also need to add moisture to the mixture of green and brown materials. Don’t add too much water, though as you will drown the microbes.
- Food Waste – food scraps, vegetable waste, coffee grounds.
- Plant Waste – Plant clippings.
- Grass clippings – When you mow the lawn, you can take the grass clippings to add to your green materials.
- Yard Waste – Organic materials like fallen leaves, wood chips, and branches from trees.
- Household Waste – Waste like cardboard, shredded newspaper, and old paper.
What not to put in compost piles
There are some items that you will want to avoid in your compost, such as:
- Meat or fish
- Citrus fruits
- Pet waste
- Any material that is treated with pesticides
These items would make the compost smell bad but also may attract pests.
High temperatures can affect the decomposition of your compost. If your compost gets too hot, you will need to turn the compost which improves aeration.
What can I use my natural compost for?
Fertilizer – Compost can be used as a fertilizer on a new lawn; most plants, including hanging baskets, seedlings, and shrubs.
Mulch – Apply a layer of compost as topsoil instead of mulch, which will discourage weeds and aid with moisture retention. Add compost to garden beds and vegetable gardens alike.
Compost tea – By making a liquid from your compost, it concentrates the fertilizer and will add nutrients to the plant roots.
Potting mix for the soil – add to existing soil to create the potting mix.
10 Best Compost For Gardens
If you’re interested in organic gardening, then you may be confused by all the differing types of compost. So what’s the best compost for gardens? Here’s a rundown of some of the many composts on offer that will help you choose the right organic matter for your garden.
Bu’S Blend Biodynamic Compost
This excellent compost option is packed full of naturally occurring microbes. It is an organic cow manure compost base that is chemical free and has no pesticides added.
All organic materials.
It can be used with starting seeds, new plants, more established plants, trees, shrubs, on the lawn, or as mulch.
Can be used all year round.
Can be quite heavy and may need breaking up.
Charlie’s compost is a quality compost based on poultry manure. An all-natural fertilizer that adds nutrients, organic matter, and microorganisms that promotes plant growth. One of the best composts available with great value for money.
Uses all organic materials.
Certified organic compost in the state of Kentucky.
Only available in a 10lb bag.
Dr. Earth Vegetable Garden Compost
Made from 100% natural ingredients and perfect for planting vegetables. This fertilizer is formulated to feed vegetable gardens for several months. Best organic compost options on the market.
It contains eight strains of Ecto- and Endo-mycorrhizae that provide nutrients to vegetable plants. Mycorrhizae is a fungus that enhances nutrients and moisture in the soil.
Organic and all-natural.
Perfect for tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables.
Smells a little bad.
Back To The Roots All Purpose Compost
An all-purpose, all-natural bagged compost. A good quality compost for plants, flower beds, and vegetable gardens. Best composts for multi-purpose use.
Balanced ph and nutrient-rich.
100% peat-free soil.
All natural ingredients.
Can be a bit coarse for starter seeds.
Black Gold Organic Gardening Compost
Black Gold Gardening Compost is specifically used as a potting mix, this soil is a loam mix. The base of Black Gold compost is made from earthworm castings making it full of microbes.
Black Gold can be used to make worm tea.
Used in vegetable gardens, pots, raised beds, and indoor and outdoor use.
Be careful not to overwater as it retains a lot of moisture in the soil.
Worm Castings Organic Fertilizer
Worm castings organic fertilizer is made from green-fed earthworm castings. Earthworm castings increase aeration in soil and enhance nutrients. This bag is packed full of fertilizing goodness. The castings are guaranteed to be pure.
Only have to use a small amount.
Slow release of nutrients to crops.
Not so much compost and more a soil feed.
Black Kow Mushroom Compost
This mushroom compost is created by soil that is used for growing mushrooms once and then bagged. This is an all-purpose compost that can be used in vegetable gardens, bedding plants, raised beds, seedlings, and more.
The material comes from organic sources.
Good as topsoil.
Used in the vegetable garden and flower beds.
It is a little bit pricey.
Scotts Turf Builder Thick’R Lawn Sun and Shade
This product is specifically for lawns. It is a soil improver and seed that helps fill gaps in your backyard grass and thickens and improves turf. It also fertilizes your lawn keeping it looking lush and green.
Easy to use.
Works after one application.
50% thicker grass after the first application.
Enhances root development.
Only for lawns.
Bokashi Compost Starter
A brilliant way to give the composting process a head start. Great for both indoors and outdoors. Easily converts organic matter and food leftovers into a fertile soil amendment.
Compost starter that boosts health enabling you to use compost quicker.
Easy to use.
Reduces foul odors.
Make sure you fully seal the bag or it can compromise the materials.
Blue Ribbon Organics Premium Compost
Whether you are looking to grow your own vegetables, plant containers, or seedlings then Blue Ribbon organics will produce the best results every time. Made from clean and organic substances and comes in a bag that can spread 1 cubic foot.
Improves soil aeration
Works well with earthworm castings
Includes key nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, nitrogen phosphorus, and potassium
Slightly more expensive for its size.
Compost For Garden FAQS
What happens if you put too much compost in a garden?
Believe it or not, too much of a good thing can be bad for your soil. The excess nutrients in the soil will saturate it and leave no room for growth in your plants. Large quantities of compost in the soil can also increase acid and alkaline disrupting the ph levels. It is best to use the recommended mix for ideal growing conditions.
Which compost is best for all plants?
Most gardeners will be looking for something that is beneficial to as many plants as possible. A multi-purpose compost will work wonders when planting your containers, raised bed, flower beds, or garden. If in doubt look at the labels and see which plants the compost is compatible with.
How do you know if compost is good?
An excellent way to start to decide if composts are good or not is to look at the ingredients. If it is made from all organic matter then chances are it’ll be good for most gardeners. If you can see on the label that it is OMRI certified then that is another great indicator. If you are composting yourself then there are a few indicators that it has fully composted and is ready to use. They are:
- It should look dark in color
- The texture should be fine and crumble in your hands
- It should not smell foul in odor
How long can I store compost?
The longer you store your composted organic matter, the more likely it will be to lose nutrients. The nutrients and health of the compost are best between 3-6 months. The quality reduces over time if it has decomposed too much, and you need to keep feeding it and caring for it. By adding more to the pile you increase the microorganisms and will revive it. The maximum recommended time for compost storage is around 2 years.
Which compost is best for seeds?
When planting seeds you should look for peat-free seed compost. It has to provide all of the necessary nutrients for the seed germination process. This process requires a delicate balance and so it is worth looking for a compost blend that is solely for seed planting.
How much compost do I need?
Typically you should add around 3-4inches of compost to vegetable gardens, flower beds, or plants and shrubs. You should do this before planting in Spring or after the growing season in the Fall. For containers, you should aim for a 25% compost and 75% soil mix to maintain healthy plants.
Is all compost the same?
The simple answer to this is no. Different plants require different environments and different levels of nutrition. Some plants are acid-loving and some prefer alkaline soil. It is important to do your research on how to grow your plants and shrubs beforehand.
There are many different composts available at your lock garden center and you can also mix in your own compost. The main categories are:
- Multi-purpose compost
- Peat free compost
- Organic Peat moss compost
- Organic compost
- Manure based compost
- Homemade compost from organic matter
What’s the difference between soil and compost?
Soil and compost are very similar. It can be hard when you start out gardening to understand the main differences. Adding a mix of topsoil or compost to the soil in your garden is extremely beneficial. There are many pros we will discuss, but first, we will explain the differences.
What is compost? – Compost combines organic matter that during the composting process creates a nutrient-rich material you can add to the soil.
What is soil? – Soil is a top layer of earth, usually made up of sand, organic matter, and clay. There can, of course, be other substances that make up its form. Soil is formed over many years due to decay and erosion interacting with chemicals.
Can you use compost as soil? – Using too much compost can be harmful as the nutrient saturation can lead to moisture build-up and root rot. Compost should be mixed in with soil for best results.
Is compost better than soil? – Compost has an increase of nutrients which helps fertilize plants, meaning you don’t have to use any harmful synthetic fertilizers. There isn’t really a better than, it is more that both of these substances work well together.
Can compost be harmful?
Whilst composting is considered good for the environment, reducing materials sent to landfill waste, composts can be considered a place where certain fungal spores can grow.
In order to protect yourself from this we have a few handy tips when working in your garden:
- Wear gloves
- Wear footwear
- Ensure you stir or mix over your compost
- Wash your hands after working with it
- Make sure you only add the correct materials
If properly looked after you shouldn’t have any issues.
Is compost good for plants?
Yes! It brings all the essential nutrient mix to your plants to promote healthy growth in your garden. It also helps promote good drainage in the soil. You do not need to use any chemicals which is ultimately better for the environment and our health. The key areas compost helps with plants are:
- Providing nutrients
- Water retention
- Improves soil structure
- Promotes recycling
Can compost hurt plants?
Large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can start to produce a toxic environment for plants to grow in. It is, therefore, very important to use the correct amount of compost to grow plants in your garden. You only really need a thin layer mixed in the top of your soil.
Too many nutrients in the soil can end up burning the roots of your plants. If you see the following signs you may have too much in your soil.
- Yellow leaves
- Withered leaves or foliage
- Not growing well
The best way to avoid this is to follow any instructions on the label or, if using your own homemade compost, only use 1/3 inches on top of your soil and mix in.
Can I use garden compost in pots?
If you have a container that you would like to grow plants in then you absolutely can add compost to it. Over time soil will become drained of nutrients and a good way to add them back and have healthy plants is to add a layer of compost. You can refresh the soil by adding the appropriate amount of compost depending on the size of the pot. Loosen the surface roots and remove some of the old soil. Add a small amount to the surface and carefully mix in.
When should you spread compost?
When gardening you might ask, when is the best time to spread compost in my garden? The best times are either in Spring or Autumn. The plants, shrubs, or vegetables will need the nutrients either when they are having a growth spurt in Spring or when they are hibernating in Fall. You can give the soil in your garden a boost by adding compost.
What type of compost is best for vegetable gardens?
If you are looking to grow vegetables and start your own vegetable garden, then you will want to do some research on the best compost to produce healthy vegetables.
Whether you want to grow potatoes, tomatoes, or carrots when you are gardening specifically to grow vegetables you need to feed them with all the minerals and nutrients they will need. Organic compost is often thought of as the best for growing vegetables in your garden soil as it is free from any pesticides. Manure may be another option for your vegetable garden, however, you have to be careful as manure can introduce pathogens. The best way to prevent this is to add manure to your vegetable garden soil at least 4 months before planting. Manure can be an affordable way to add nutrients if you are dealing with a larger area.
What are worm castings in compost?
Worms eat the compost and then produce worm castings, which are basically worm excrement. The worms help to aerate the soil and fertilize it with their manure. If you are making compost it is a good idea to add worms to your compost bin.
You can make your own worm bin that can help you create worm castings. You can easily buy worn bins or boxes and add to them some damp newspaper, soil, and a little bit of compost along with food scraps. To that, you add worms and let them produce castings. You can harvest the little round ball-shaped castings and use them in your garden soil. Castings are made up of humus which means they retain moisture and oxygen which is great for your soil.