When buying bagged compost, you must consider the raw materials used (herbicide and pathogen-free), smell and texture (earth-like and crumbly), what the compost will be used for, the type of compost (regular, manure or vermicompost). We also recommend testing the compost in your garden or on indoor plants.
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Is Store-Bought Compost Better Than Home Compost?
Homemade compost combines inputs from all sorts of food scraps like coffee grounds, veggies, meat, sawdust, and compostable plastics. If the composting process is done correctly, it’ll result in a nutritionally balanced and high-quality compost pile that is more effective than bagged compost.
Bagged compost from retailer shops may contain ingredients like herbicides and heavy metals unsuitable for healthy plant growth.
It’s also costly, especially when buying large bags of compost for nurseries, potting mixes, or vegetable gardens.
The compost products on the labels will inform you if it’s good compost, be sure to check.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying Bagged Compost
Bagged compost comes in various types, textures, and sizes to cater to different growers’ needs.
There are things to consider when buying bagged compost, as illustrated below.
Know The Type You Want
There are three types of bagged compost standards in most stores, and they include;
- Worm castings compost, made from vermicomposting (a process where organic matter like earthworms feed on food scraps). It contains dense nutrients and thus should be used in moderation.
- Manure compost contains animal droppings like horse or cow manure mixed with straw or sawdust to form a fertile compost.
- Yard waste compost is made from yard trimmings, grass clippings, wood pruning, and weeds mixed with organic matter to form a nutritious compost pile. Growers use it as mulch, topsoil, or fertilizer for garden soils.
Determine The Compost Purpose
How you want to use the compost will influence the type to buy, the size, and the compost products used.
Some growers may wish to the compost to improve soil drainage, increase organic matter in their vegetable garden soil, or improve aeration.
Others want compost for topdressing raised beds, changing soil grade, or their potting mixes and nurseries.
These factors fit different bags of compost.
Read The Label
The listed compost product will indicate the ingredients. Buy according to what you need for your vegetable garden soil.
When buying bagged compost, ensure you test your garden soil to determine the right fit. Otherwise, you’ll be inviting trouble.
4 Basic Compost Buying Tips
Buying bagged compost can be challenging, especially for beginner gardeners. Worry not, though; here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Raw Materials
Any quality compost is only as good as the raw materials used. So, ensure to check the label for inputs used keenly. Good compost should be certified organic and free from herbicides, pathogens, pesticides, or heavy metals.
However, it’s hard to find purely organic bagged compost in stores. Most have bits of leftover grass clippings as pesticide residues, peat moss, and biosolids not suitable for plant growth.
These ingredients can’t inhibit plant growth provided they’re not the main ingredients in the compost bags.
2. The Smell Matters
Pay attention to how the compost smells—it should have a rich earthy smell.
A rotten ammonia-like smell indicates incomplete vermicomposting. It should also not contain garbage, soil, or other visible contaminants.
Good compost should look like dark, moist, and crumbly soil. The presence of items like wood chips or plant materials indicates the composting process is not done.
Notably, high-quality compost should not be mixed with soil unless you’re building raised beds or altering garden soil grade; otherwise, aim for compost only for efficacy.
4. Test Before Purchase
First, buy different types of bagged compost and test them to determine which works well with your garden soil and which is bad.
Alternatively, request the stores for chemical analysis test results if available.
Where To Buy Compost?
There are many compost retailer stores to get large bags of compost.
Here are a few suggestions:
Buying compost online gives you the advantage of comparing prices and knowing the compost products from the labels before making a purchase.
You also get to know reviews from other customers ascertaining quality compost. So what’s better than getting your compost bags shipped to your cubic yard?
2. Garden centers
This is the place if you want high-quality bulk compost for your cubic yard. Here you get certified organic and quality compost bags for any soil.
The best part is that you can get testing samples beforehand. Additionally, prices are relatively more affordable than in other stores.
Here, you’ll find a variety of compost for any purpose, whether soil amendment or maintaining garden soil quality.
You can also get a pre-compost at a lesser price and add organic materials for vermicomposting to create a quality compost pile for your vegetable garden, nurseries, potting soil, and raised beds.
4. Retailer stores
Some retailers specialize in selling topsoil, mulch, and organic compost for soil enrichment. Most sell bulk compost or bagged compost, depending on your needs.
5. Online gardening stores
Home Depot and Lowes are the best examples of stores selling a variety of gardening implements.
They have a wide array of certified organic compost that you’ll find a suitable option for your garden—whether for topdressing, mulch, or feedstock.
Our Product Recommendations
Based on our research, here are a few affordable products excellent for different garden soil needs as approved by the US composting council.
1. Gardener’s Gold
- This is a soil amendment bagged compost
- Free from industrial toxins like biosolids, sludge, or horse manure
- It alters soil chemical structure, adding premium nutrients
- Excellent for cubic yards, indoor plants, and vegetable gardens
- Cost between $23 to $30
2. Wiggle Worm Soil Builder
- Has rich nutrients from earthworm castings
- It’s certified organic by US composting council
- A handful will slowly feed the plants over a long period
- Ideal for indoor plants, flowers, and outdoor vegetable gardens
- It costs approximately $12 depending on the pounds you are purchasing
3. Horticultural Activated Charcoal For Plants
- USDA organic certified
- Ideal for potting mixes raised beds and vegetable gardens
- Boosts soil fertility, improves air circulation, and eliminates excess moisture
- It slowly releases nutrients and excess water when needed by plants
- It’s an eco-friendly compost product
- It costs about $13 for a 1-quart bag
4. 100% Organic Orchid Potting Bark
- No chemical additives or industrial waste
- Ideal as a potting mix for indoor/outdoor plants and vegetables
- Excellent soil amendment, improving drainage and aeration
- Certified organic by US composting council
- It costs about $12 to $20 depending on the size