What To Look For When Buying Compost To Ensure Your Garden Thrives

Written By Jennifer

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Compost is essential for healthy soil.

Compost provides nutrients and organic matter that help plants grow and thrive. While making your own compost is a great option, not everyone has the time, space, or resources to do so. Are you planning to make your own compost and buying compost is an interim measure.

Buying compost is convenient, but it’s important to know what to look for when buying compost to ensure you’re getting a quality product.

As someone who has been gardening for years, I’ve learned a thing or two about purchasing compost.

Compost that has been fully decomposed and all the organic matter has broken down into a dark brown, crumbly material that resembles soil, is ideal to use in your garden.

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Quality of Compost When Purchasing Bagged Compost

When purchasing compost, it is essential to ensure that you are getting high quality, organic compost, that will be beneficial to your garden or plants. The quality of compost can be determined by its texture, smell, and label.

Texture Of Compost

The texture of compost is an important factor to consider when purchasing compost. The texture of high quality compost should be crumbly and have a light and fluffy texture.

The texture of the compost should not be too wet or too dry. If the compost is too wet, it may contain harmful bacteria. If the compost is too dry, it may not have enough nutrients for your plants.

good texture of compost

Smell Of Compost

The smell of compost is another important factor to consider when purchasing compost.

High quality compost should have an earthy smell that is not too overpowering. I love the garden and a good compost smell is delightful to me.

If the finished compost has a strong ammonia like smell or smells like rotting food, it will not be good quality.

While finished quality compost may contain worms, it should not be covered in flies or maggots.

Labelling Of Compost

Read the label carefully, when purchasing compost. Look for compost that has been certified by the US Composting Council or a similar organization.

This ensures that the compost has been made using the proper techniques and meets certain quality standards.

The label should also list the ingredients used to make the compost, including any additives or fillers.

It’s the old, you get what you pay for with bagged compost. I’m not saying it has to be expensive but don’t just go for the cheapest option. The same applies to potting mix. Your plants won’t thrive with inferior products.

When purchasing compost, it is important to consider its texture, smell, and label.

Look for high-quality compost that has been certified by a reputable organization and has a light and fluffy texture, an earthy smell, and a clear label that lists the ingredients used to make it.

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Ingredients for Making Compost

Composting materials fall into four main categories: browns, greens, organic materials, and manure. Look for the presence of these materials when checking the contents of the compost you are buying.

Browns

Compost materials called browns are carbon-rich materials that provide the energy source for microbes in the compost pile.

Examples of browns include dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, and pine needles. These materials break down slowly and can help balance out the nitrogen-rich greens in the compost pile.

leaves browns in the compost

Greens

Compost materials called greens are nitrogen-rich materials that provide the protein source for microbes in the compost pile.

Examples of greens include grass clippings, food scraps, and coffee grounds. These plant materials break down quickly and help speed up the composting process.

 grass clippings an example of greens in compost

Organic Materials

Organic materials for the compost pile can be either browns or greens and include yard waste, twigs, and straw. These materials are important for adding bulk to the compost pile and improving airflow.

Manure

Composted animal manure is a great source of nitrogen for the compost pile and can help speed up the composting process.

However, it’s important to use composted manure from herbivores only, as composted manure from carnivores can contain harmful bacteria.

Overall, the key to successful composting is to have a good mix of ingredients and to maintain the right conditions in garden soil for organic material and the microbes to thrive.

Moisture and Aeration Of Bagged Compost

Water

When purchasing compost, one of the most important things to consider is the moisture content. Compost that is too dry will not decompose properly, while compost that is too wet can become anaerobic, leading to unpleasant odors and a decrease in compost quality.

I always check the moisture content of the compost before buying it.

Air

When buying compost, another crucial factor to consider is aeration. The compost pile needs enough air to help the microorganisms break down the organic matter.

Without enough air, the pile can become compacted, which can slow down the decomposition process.

Drainage

Good drainage is also important when purchasing compost. If the compost is too wet, it can become waterlogged, which can lead to anaerobic conditions.

On the other hand, if the compost is too dry, it can become difficult to wet and may not decompose properly.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that the compost has good drainage before purchasing it.

Oxygen

When buying compost, oxygen is another critical factor to consider. Oxygen is essential for the microorganisms in the compost pile to break down the organic matter.

Without enough oxygen, the pile can become anaerobic, leading to unpleasant odors and a decrease in compost quality.

To summarize, when buying compost, it is essential to consider the moisture content, aeration, drainage, and oxygen levels.

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Nutrient Content

When buying compost, it’s important to consider the nutrient content. Compost is a great source of nutrients for your plants, and the nutrient content can vary depending on the raw ingredients used to make it.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth, and compost can be a great source of it.

Look for compost that has a good balance of nitrogen-rich “green” materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps, and carbon-rich “brown” materials, such as leaves and wood chips.

Carbon

Carbon is another important nutrient for plants, and it’s also important for maintaining a healthy soil structure. Look for compost that has a good balance of carbon-rich “brown” materials, such as leaves and wood chips, and nitrogen-rich “green” materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Organic Matter

Compost is also a great source of organic matter, which is important for maintaining a healthy soil structure and retaining moisture.

Look for compost that has a high percentage of organic matter, which can be indicated by a dark color and a crumbly texture. Worm castings can be a great source of organic matter, as they are rich in beneficial microorganisms and nutrients.

Overall, when purchasing compost, it’s important to consider the nutrient content, including nitrogen, carbon, and organic matter.

Potential Contaminants

When purchasing compost, it is important to be aware of potential contaminants that may be present. These contaminants can be harmful to the environment, plants, animals, and humans.

In this section, I will discuss some of the most common potential contaminants that you should be aware of when purchasing compost.

Pathogens

Pathogens are microorganisms that can cause disease in humans and animals. They can be present in compost that is a waste compost made from dairy or composted manure.

When purchasing compost, look for products that have been properly treated to kill any pathogens that may be present. As a safety factor, wear gloves and a face mask, when handling compost to protect yourself from potential pathogens.

Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals that are used to control pests such as insects, rodents, and weeds. They can be present in compost that is made from yard waste or agricultural waste.

When purchasing compost, look for products that are labeled as pesticide-free.

If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer for more information.

Herbicides

Herbicides are chemicals that are used to control weeds. They can be present in compost that is made from yard waste or agricultural waste.

Some herbicides can persist in the environment for a long time and can harm plants that are sensitive to them.

When purchasing compost, look for products that are labeled as herbicide-free. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer for more information.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury can be present in compost that is made from industrial waste or contaminated soil. These metals can be harmful to plants and animals, and can also pose a risk to human health if they are ingested.

When purchasing compost, look for products that have been tested for metals and are within safe limits. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer you buy compost from for more information.

In addition to the contaminants listed above, it is also important to look for trash debris such as plastic, metal, or glass in the compost pile.

what to look for when buying compost

Buying Compost

When it comes to buying compost, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you get a quality product that will benefit your garden. Here are some tips for buying good compost:

Home Composting

If you’re interested in composting at home, you can start with a simple container or compost bin or try a worm farm. This will allow you to turn your food and yard waste into nutrient trich compost that you can use in your garden.

Home composting is a great way to reduce waste and improve the health of your soil. However, compost is not made overnight so purchasing compost is a good option until your home made compost is ready.

Compost tea is another way to improve the health of your plants. Compost tea is made using mature compost. Once your compost is ready, consider making compost tea. This article explains what you need to make compost tea and how to do it.

Bagged Compost

When buying bagged compost, it’s important to consider the raw materials used and choose compost that is herbicide and pathogen-free.

The smell and texture of the compost should be earth-like and crumbly. Consider what the best bagged compost will be used for, as there are different types of compost available, such as mushroom compost, manure, and vermicompost. It’s also a good idea to test the compost in your garden or on indoor plants before buying a large quantity.

Mushroom Compost Organic Brands 8 Pound Bag

Bulk Compost

If you need a larger quantity of compost, you can purchase it in bulk by the cubic yard. This can be a cost-effective option if you have a large garden or landscaping project.

When buying bulk compost, make sure to ask about the source of the compost and what raw materials were used to make it.

Compostable Products

Every day there are more and more compostable products available, such as compostable bags and utensils. These products are made from organic materials that can break down in a composting environment.

However, it’s important to note that not all compostable products are suitable for home composting. Some require industrial composting facilities to break down properly.

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Key Takeaways

In summary, when buying compost, I always ensure that it meets my requirements. I make sure that the compost is dark, moist, and crumbly, with a rich earthy smell.

I avoid compost that smells like ammonia or has visible contaminants, such as garbage or soil.

I also consider the type of compost that I need for my specific gardening needs. For example, if I need compost for my vegetable garden, I ensure that it is high in nitrogen and has a balanced pH level.

If I need compost for my flower garden, I look for organic compost, that is high in phosphorus and potassium.

Make sure that the compost is made from quality ingredients, organic material such as yard waste, and food waste and scraps, and manure, and that it has been properly processed.

Avoid compost that contains synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, as these can harm the environment and potentially harm my plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you determine the quality of compost?

When purchasing compost, look for signs of good quality compost such as a dark, crumbly texture, a pleasant earthy aroma, and the absence of visible contaminants like rocks or plastic.

Good quality compost should be free of weed seeds and pathogens that can harm your plants.

Is bagged compost a reliable option?

Bagged compost can be a convenient and reliable option, but it’s important to check the label to ensure that it meets your needs.

Look for bagged compost that is certified organic, free of chemical additives, and has a balanced nutrient profile.

Consider the source of the bagged composts, and whether it has been tested for contaminants.

What are the key characteristics of top-quality compost?

Top quality compost should have a dark, crumbly texture, a pleasant earthy aroma, and a balanced nutrient profile.

It should also be free of weed seeds and pathogens, and should not contain visible contaminants like rocks or plastic.

Look for compost that has been tested for metals and other contaminants.

What are the best compost brands available?

There are many great compost brands on the market, including Black Gold, E.B. Stone, and Dr. Earth. However, the best brand for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Consider factors like price, availability, and nutrient profile when selecting a brand.

Dr. Earth 749688230773 803 1-1/2 Cubic Feet All Purpose Compost, 1.5 cu. ft

Where can you find the most affordable bulk compost?

The most affordable bulk compost can often be found at local farms, nurseries, or composting facilities. Additionally, consider purchasing compost in the off season or in larger quantities to get a better price.

Be sure to compare prices and quality before making a purchase.

What should you look for when purchasing compost in bulk?

When purchasing compost in bulk, be sure to check the quality of the compost and the source of the materials.

Look for compost that has been tested for contaminants and has a balanced nutrient profile.

Consider factors like price, delivery options, and the availability of bulk discounts.

vector - composting worm
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