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Best Compost For Your Garden: Compost 101 And All Its Benefits

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Are you looking to create the perfect vegetable garden oasis full of healthy and vibrant plants, all while improving your garden soil?

If so, then finding the right compost is an essential part of success. Compost helps put nutrients and minerals back into the soil, making it fertile for growing lush vegetation.


But with so many compost types on the market, how do you know which one is best for your garden?


We’ve done the research to give you the inside scoop on the best compost for your garden. Read on to learn more about improving soil quality and how to choose the best compost for your vegetable garden.

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Best Compost For Garden

Adding any kind of organic material to your vegetable garden is magnificent, and if you can make your own compost at home, then you don’t need to buy any. But if you are looking for compost pre-made, then there are a few things to look out for.


The best quality comes from materials that are high in nitrogen, such as vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings, peat moss, as well as other organic material.


Look for compost with high nitrogen content, because nitrogen is incredibly important for plant growth. It’s needed for both the structure of the plant and its metabolism, as well as the production of chlorophyll. Without enough nitrogen in the soil or compost, your plants won’t be able to grow tall and produce food.


Below are some great options for the best bagged compost you get for your vegetable garden.

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Earthworm Castings

Our favorite go-to, all-around, indoor and outdoor compost is worm casting. This type of compost is from the droppings of earthworms and is widely considered the best compost for vegetables, as well as house plants.

Earthworm Castings are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which help promote healthy plant growth.

According to an article written by Jayson K, Harper, and professor of agricultural economics, Lynn F. Kime from Penn State University, worm castings are two times more nutrient-rich than cow manure, with very little reduction of weed seeds and pathogens. The nutrients in the worm castings are quickly available for plants to absorb!

If you want to make your own worm compost, be sure to check out the Garden Tower 2.


Composted Manure

Animal manure that is allowed to age or “cure” is a significant source of nutrients for your vegetable garden. Manure compost is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as other micronutrients that help your plants thrive.


According to the article “Wise Use of Manure in Home Vegetable Gardens” written by Penn State University, acceptable animal manures include “cows, horses, sheep, goats, llamas, and chicken manure.” Manures that should never be used are “Pig, dog, cat, and human” should never be used in a vegetable garden”.



Organic Matter and Manure

Compost with manure like the Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost is a mix of organic waste, like peat moss and animal manure, making it an ideal blend for all of your garden needs.


Organic materials and manure compost are rich in essential nutrients that feed the soil, improve its structure, and promote microbial activity.


Organic matter is also important for improving water retention in the soil since it can act like a sponge to absorb moisture during dry periods.


three mushrooms in forest

Mushroom Compost

Mushroom compost is a type of compost made from the by-products of mushroom farming. It’s rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients that are essential for growing healthy plants.


Studies from the National Library of Medicine have shown that adding mushroom compost to depleted vegetable garden soil can significantly promote the growth of vegetables, such as lettuce and tomatoes.


Our biggest con of mushroom compost is its price point and availability. For example, Gro Well Brands Mushroom Compost is $60 for 1 cu. Ft. If you know of anyone local to you growing mushrooms, ask them for their mushroom waste.

What to Look For In A High-Quality Bulk Compost

The University of New Hampshire gives tips on purchasing compost, saying, when purchasing bulk compost, it’s important to inspect the material.

Look for trash debris such as plastic, metal, or glass in the pile. Also look for undecomposed materials such as leaves, stems, seeds, chunks of bark, or eggshells.


When quality compost is finished, it should appear light and fluffy with a rich, earthy smell. There should be no off-odors such as a strong ammonia-like smell or the smell of rotting food, and there should not be any flies or maggots present. The color of the finished compost should range from dark brown to almost black.


person holding black soil

What Makes Compost Good For Vegetable Gardening?

Compost is ideal for vegetable gardening as it helps create healthy, nutrient-dense soil. Compost adds essential plant nutrients that greatly improve soil structure by providing organic matter that microbial activity and prevents erosion. 


It also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and helps prevent weed growth. Below are some major benefits of adding compost to your garden.

Nutrient Dense

The US Composting Council tells us that compost is made up of valuable plant nutrients and beneficial organisms, so it’s essential for healthy vegetable growth.


Compost increases the soil’s cation exchange capacity (CEC), and then it delivers needed food for the plants in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.


All these benefits create nutrient-dense soil that will give your vegetable garden strong roots and lush foliage.

Weed Suppression

Compost is great for weed suppression, as it helps create a healthy and balanced soil environment.


Compost brings balance to the soil’s pH levels, ensuring that the ideal conditions are met to allow your vegetables to flourish without competing with weeds.


Also, compost creates an inhospitable habitat for weed seeds, preventing them from germinating.

Enhancing Water Retention

Compost is like a super-absorbent sponge for your garden soil! A healthy compost helps encourage the formation of beneficial macro and microorganisms that create pathways in the soil to allow water to penetrate deeper.


This means that your vegetables can stay hydrated longer, reducing the amount of time you have to spend watering them.

Balanced PH

Compost helps create a balanced soil pH level, which is essential for healthy vegetables. The ideal pH range for growing vegetables is 6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic).


Compost acts as a buffer that reduces fluctuations in the soil’s pH levels, making it easier for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil.

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How To Prepare Soil Before Adding Compost

If you are amending your existing garden soil, the following steps will help you prepare your soil before adding compost.

Test the Soil

Before you start adding any compost to your vegetable garden soil, it’s a best practice you test it first. You can either buy a testing kit or send a sample of your soil to a lab.


This will tell you the pH level and nutrient levels in your soil so you know how much compost is needed.

Remove Weeds & Debris

Before you can add your compost to the soil, you need to make sure that it’s free from weeds and debris.


Take the time to pull out any weeds or other unwanted vegetation, as this will help ensure that only healthy nutrients are added to your soil.


Crop unrecognizable farmer in dirty rubber boots standing and loosening dry soil in countryside in daylight

Till or Mix the Soil

Once you’ve removed any weeds and debris, it’s time to mix the soil. You can either use a tiller or a garden fork to break up any large clumps of soil.

This will help ensure that the compost is evenly mixed in with your soil, promoting better water retention and nutrient absorption.

Add Compost

Once your soil is prepped, it’s time to add the compost to your vegetable garden! Depending on how much you need, you can either buy a bag of compost or create your own using kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and other organic materials.


Mix the compost into the freshly tilled soil and then use a garden rake to disperse it across the surface.


Once you’ve added the compost, give your soil a good watering to help the nutrients settle into place. This will also help encourage beneficial microbial activity in the soil, further increasing its nutrient level.

green plant on white and purple floral ceramic pot

Can Compost Be Organic?

Can you practice organic gardening with compost? The answer to the age-old question of whetherds compost is organic or not is… it depends!

While most compost cannot technically be certified as “organic,” there are some programs and standards that can help people who are interested in composting organically.


For example, the US Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) program verifies that compost meets certain quality standards, such as being free from contaminants and having sufficient levels of beneficial microorganisms.


So while it’s not a surefire way to guarantee organic compost, it can be a great tool for those interested in pursuing organic composting practices. So now you know–if you’re looking for an organic composting solution, the STA program may be just what you need!


That being said, you can find some certified organic compost out there cush as Blue Ribbon Certified Organic Compost.


But hey, if you’re not looking for certified organic compost and just want to go with a more budget-friendly option, then regular compost is still a fantastic way of adding nutrients back into your soil.

Vegetables on the Soil

The Basics of the Composting Process

Composting is a great way to turn organic waste into nutrient-rich soil that can help your garden thrive. It’s a simple process in which microorganisms and beneficial bacteria break down organic materials like food waste from kitchen scraps and yard clippings and transform them into nitrogen-rich compost.


Whether you’re new to composting or have been doing it for years, understanding the composting process can help you get the most out of your compost pile. Here’s what you need to know about the basics of composting.


Step One: Collect Organic Green Materials – Compost starts with organic materials such as kitchen food scraps, yard clippings, and plant cuttings. Try to collect a variety of materials as this will provide the necessary nutrients to create healthy compost.


Step Two: Mix Materials – Once you have your materials, mix them together in a pile and make sure that there is a good balance between green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials.


Step Three: Aerate – To ensure that your compost breaks down properly, you need to aerate it by turning it over with a pitchfork or shovel every few weeks. This will help keep oxygen in the pile and provide necessary air to the microbes, breaking down the material.


Step Four: Monitor – As your compost breaks down, it’s important to monitor the temperature and moisture level of the pile. If it gets too wet or dry, you may need to add more water or brown materials respectively to keep the compost in balance. You can check the temperature with a thermometer to make sure that it stays between 140-160°F.


Step Five: Harvest – After a few months, your compost should be ready for harvest! Use a garden rake or shovel to scoop the compost out of the pile and spread it evenly in your vegetable gardens. You can also use the finished compost as mulch around trees.

As we stated, these are the bare-bones basics of making your own compost. If you want to get serious about making good quality compost, there are more advanced methods and tools you can use.


Things to Avoid When Using Compost

When it comes to composting, there are a few things you should avoid in order to ensure the best results.

First of all, steer clear of adding meat, fish, dairy products, or any processed foods to your compost pile, as these can attract rodents and unwanted pests.


It is important not to add any diseased plants or weeds to your compost as this can spread the disease or weed seeds to other parts of your garden.

Finally, avoid adding any items made from petroleum-based materials such as plastics or synthetic fabrics, as these will not break down in the compost.

Brown Soil in Orange Plastic Bucket

Final Thoughts

Making your own compost at home is a great way to reduce environmental waste and give back to the earth. Whether you buy bagged compost or create your own, you’ll be able to nurture and nourish the soils in your vegetable gardens while doing something good for the environment.

With the basics of composting outlined above, you can confidently understand what the best compost for your garden is.

green plants on black metal train rail during daytime


Best Compost For Garden FAQs

1. Improves soil structure and nutrient content

2. Increases water retention in the soil

3. Reduces erosion of topsoil due to rain or wind

4. Decreases landfill waste and food scraps 

5. Acts as a natural fertilizer for plants

6. Controls garden pests and diseases naturally

7. Enhance microbial activity in the soil

8. Improves plant growth and productivity

9. Helps regulate air temperature around plants

10. Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides

1. Collect organic materials such as grass clippings 2. Mix the materials together 3. Aerate the pile 4. Monitor moisture and temperature levels 5. Turn the pile regularly to ensure even decomposition 6. Harvest finished compost material 7. Use finished compost in your garden or lawn beds for healthier plants

Fruits such as citrus and pineapple should not be added to compost, as they can release acids that can disrupt the balance of the pile. Additionally, most seeds (including those from fruits) will not break down in the composting process. It’s best to avoid adding these items to your compost pile.

Compost can improve soil structure and quality almost immediately, but it will take several months or even years for it to fully break down and be absorbed into the soil. It’s important to add fresh compost every year in order to maintain healthy soil conditions.

It’s not recommended to add weeds to your compost as it can spread the weed seeds to other parts of your garden. It’s best to dispose of them in a compost bin or by burning them. If you are going to add weeds to your compost pile, be sure that they have been dried out completely.

Compost can help improve the soil structure and nutrient content, which may lead to faster plant growth. However, it is not a guarantee that plants will grow faster when compost is added. Other factors, such as light, water, and temperature, are also important for successful plant growth.

The main purpose of composting is to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used to improve the health and productivity of your garden. Composting also reduces plant waste by transforming organic materials into useful products, diverting them from landfills. Finally, it helps preserve natural resources and decrease pollution as it eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.

Compost piles can be kept in a shady area to help maintain the correct moisture and temperature levels. Direct sunlight can cause the compost to dry out and become too hot, leading to an inefficient breakdown of materials. Shade helps keep undesirable pests away from your compost.


Egg cartons are compostable, but it is important to ensure that the cartons are made from sustainable materials such as paper or cardboard. Avoid using petroleum-based plastics, as these are not biodegradable and can add contaminants to your compost. It’s best to shred the carton before adding it to the pile for quicker decomposition. Additionally, remove any egg residue or shells from the carton before adding it to the compost.

Onions can be composted unless you are composting with worms. Then it is not advised to add onions. If you are composting in a large pile, we recommend that they need to be chopped up or shredded first, as they are slow to decompose.

A yard of compost can weigh anywhere from 800 to 1,200 pounds depending on the moisture content. Compost is made up of organic matter and can be quite heavy due to its high water content. It’s important to keep in mind that a yard of compost will take up considerably more space than a yard of soil or mulch.

Cheese should not be added to compost as it can attract pests and unwanted animals. Cheese is slow to break down in the composting process and can create an unpleasant odor. It’s best to dispose of cheese (and other dairy products) in your regular garbage or green waste bin.

Paper towels can be composted, as long as they are made from biodegradable materials like paper or cardboard. Avoid using petroleum-based plastics and other synthetic fibers as these are not biodegradable and can add contaminants to your compost pile. Before adding the paper towels to your compost, shred them into small pieces.


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