What’s the Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens?

What’s the Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens?

Last Updated on August 10, 2021

If you want to maximize the growth of your vegetables, you’ll need to feed them properly. Adding compost to your garden soil will provide vegetables with all the nutrients and minerals they need. 

Garden soil can sometimes be good enough to grow vegetables without any need for compost, but this is rare. Very few gardeners get lucky enough to have the perfect soil with all the needed nutrients for their vegetables. 

You’ll probably need to add compost to improve growing conditions for your plants. The choice of compost available is huge, and it can be a bit stressful and difficult to choose the right one that’s most suitable for your vegetable garden. 

If you want to learn more about what compost is, and the differences between various composts, and how to choose the best compost for vegetable gardens, check our guide and review on best composts for vegetable gardens in 2021 below.

Our “Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens” review includes:

What’s the Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens infographic

What Is Compost?

Compost is an organic matter that has been partially decomposed. It’s made by decomposing organic matter into simpler organic and inorganic compounds in a process called composting. You can either buy it or make it yourself.

Compost consists of four main ingredients: oxygen, moisture, organic matter, and bacteria. 

There are many different types of organic matter that can be used for compost; leaves, sawdust, kitchen scraps, weeds, hay, and more can be used for making compost. 

Although you can make your own compost at home, it can be quite time-consuming. It can take 4 months or longer before homemade compost is ready to be used in the garden; this is why it’s best to purchase ready-made compost, especially for beginner gardeners, as it’s the simplest and quickest way to get started growing vegetables. 

Check out this video to learn exactly how to add compost to your garden the right way:

Different Types of Compost for Vegetable Gardens

There are five types of compost available; each has different ingredients and is used for specific purposes in gardening. 

All/Multi-Purpose Compost for Vegetables 

You can use this type of compost for anything, and it’s also usually the best value compost available. It comes in many varieties with different blends of ingredients; some contain varying plant foods that will release food for your vegetables anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. Others will limit the amount of water your vegetables receive by absorbing water and then releasing it slowly over time.

Organic Compost

Organic matter compost is a mixture of materials, such as wood fibers and composted bark. It’s enriched with natural nutrients derived from both plants and animals. It releases food for your plants gradually; the best quality organic compost can feed your plants for up to 3 months. If you want to be sure that the compost is truly organic, find one that’s certified by the U.S. Department of agriculture.

Peat-Based Compost

This type of compost is made from a peat base, blended with other ingredients, such as fertilizer, sand, grit, vermiculite, or perlite and wetting agents or lime. However, this type of compost isn’t particularly environmentally friendly but can still be found on the market with a reduced amount of peat. 

Peat-Free Compost

Peat-free compost is made from base ingredients that don’t contain peat. Instead, it uses base ingredients such as bark, wood fiber, coir, or green compost. It also includes ingredients especially added for your specific needs. 

Loam-Based Compost

Loam-based compost tends to be soil-based and is made with a mix of peat, loam, and sand or grit. Loam-based compost also tends to dry out less than other types of compost and is considered one of the best mixes of compost for growing vegetables. 

What To Look for When Buying Compost

a girl holding in her hand vegetables

In order to have a good harvest in your vegetable garden, you need to know what to look for when buying compost. Some commercial composts can be well-made out of organic materials, while others can be dead, dusty, and toxic for your garden. 

Know Who Made the Compost

If you’re not an expert gardener yet or don’t have the time to make your own compost, you’re probably buying one. It’s good to know who made the compost and where it comes from. When you know which company is making it, you can learn more about them and what they usually put in their gardening composts and other products.

Ask Fellow Gardeners for Their Favorite Choice of Compost or Read Reviews

Talk to your gardening friends, neighbors, garden shops, or farmers. See what their experiences are with particular compost and what they recommend. Read the reviews online before you decide to purchase.

Check if the Compost Is Free of Persistent Herbicides and Other Toxic Substances

Persistent herbicides used by hay and grain farmers don’t break down during digestion or decomposition. Not only will this be bad for the growth of your vegetables, but you’ll have to wait for several years before the toxins break down completely. 

Always opt for organic and natural compost; check that they’re certified as such by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Best Compost for Vegetable Garden in 2021 — the Review 

After considering the different types of compost available and their base compositions, here are our best composts for vegetable gardens.

Charlie’s Compost — Best Organic Compost

Charlie’s compost is our best pick of organic compost; it’s organically produced from local chicken manure and is certified as organic by the state of Kentucky. 

It contains the following organic matter and natural ingredients:

  • Vegetarian and antibiotic-free chicken manure.
  • Biochar.
  • Organic grasses.
  • Residue from organic crop production.

The compost works as a natural fertilizer and soil amendment product. It’s a complex mix of plant-available nutrients that build up your soil structure for long-term performance. 

Customers report that this compost has absolutely no unpleasant odor and improves soil structure significantly; they also mention that you should be careful with the mixture. It’s strong and can burn delicate, younger plants easily. Instead, make sure to try it out first with a light mix to see how different plants will react to it. 

Pros

  • Organically produced from local chicken manure.
  • One-hundred percent natural.
  • Offers long-term performance once added to the soil.
  • It has no odor and can be easily used for indoor gardening as well.

Cons

  • It’s a bit strong and can burn some of the more delicate, younger plants.
  • Overpriced for the amount you get.

Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure — Best Peat Based Compost

Our best pick for peat-based compost is the Michigan Peat 5240. It’s a blend of organic reed sedge peat and composted animal manure.

It’s perfect for improving a wide range of planting soils and providing natural nutrients to the soil to promote the growth of vegetables and other plants. 

The composted manure is dark, soft, and without any odors, so it’s suitable for indoor gardening as well. 

Customers report that it’s a very high-quality compost at an affordable price. It promotes the growth of plants very well and is great for amending the soil. However, you should be careful with how much of it you use in your garden and check the instructions first, as too much of this product can lower the pH of the soil too much.

Pros

  • High-quality compost.
  • Contains a blend of organic reed sedge peat and animal manure.
  • It’s odor-free.
  • Suitable for improving a wide range of planting soils 

Cons

  • Some customers report that their bag of compost came with lots of weed seeds.

Malibu Compost 100507243 715970 Growing Media — Best Peat Free Compost

Malibu compost doesn’t contain any GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, or sewage sludge.

This peat-free compost repairs your soil’s ecosystem, saves water and serves as a nutritious life force for your plants, flowers, lawns, and vegetable gardens. It can be used for any type of soil and maintain neutral pH levels in garden soil. 

It promotes the healthy root system of the plants and helps roots to spread easily through the soil. 

Customers report that it’s a very good quality compost and is excellent for promoting vegetable and fruit growth. It’s also very good at repairing damaged and compacted soil structures, making the soil more comfortable to work with. 

However, some customers report that you should avoid planting directly into this compost mix as it’s very heavy and could be difficult for roots to grow through. 

Pros

  • Doesn’t contain any GMOs, pesticides, or growth hormones.
  • Suitable for any type of soil.
  • Helps to maintain neutral pH levels in garden soil.
  • Great price.
  • Excellent at promoting vegetable and fruit growth.

Cons

  • Planting directly into the compost mix isn’t recommended as it’s very dense.

Black and Gold Garden Compost — Best Loam Based Compost

This is our best pick for loam-based compost. It’s a loamy, high-quality, all-purpose compost. 

Black and Gold Garden Compost contains high amounts of organic ingredients. The organic ingredients consist of Canadian sphagnum peat moss and composted or aged bark, which is great for good soil drainage. 

It also includes earthworm castings, composted peanut hulls, composted mushroom casing mix, and composted dairy manure, which are very high in nutrients for plants and vegetables. 

Customers report that it can be used for different types of soil amendments and promote the growth of vegetables. 

Pros

  • Very high nutrient content.
  • Good quality for a low price.
  • Contains peat moss, which is good for soil drainage.
  • Can be used for different types of soil.

Cons

  • Using it on younger plants might burn them, so it’s not suitable for seedlings and immature plants.

Dr. Earth 803 All Purpose Compost — Best Multi-Purpose Compost

This is our best pick for multi-purpose compost; it can be used for many different gardening projects such as planting trees, bare-root planting, shrubs, and flower and vegetable growing. 

Dr. Earth 803 All Purpose Compost is rich in valley-grown alfalfa meal, green-fed earthworm castings, cold water kelp meal, and a wealth of organic nutrients. It’s a completely organic, 100 percent natural multi-purpose compost that can be used for mulching, to break up clay, or to improve the texture of soil structure. 

Customers say although it’s a bit pricey, it’s definitely worth the money and is one of the best composts. It contains good quality composted materials; however, some customers report that they received bags that contained small to medium-sized rocks that they had to pick out of the compost by hand.

Pros

  • Made out of organic matter and is 100 percent natural.
  • Very rich, nutritional compost.
  • Hand-crafted blend.
  • Can be used for many different gardening projects.
  • Can be used as mulch or to break up clay and to improve the texture of soil structure.

Cons

  • A bit on the expensive side.
  • Some customers reported that the bags contained a lot of small to medium-sized rocks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is Better? Peat Moss or Compost?

Peat moss and compost aren’t the same things. Compost is made out of everyday waste materials that are decomposed into nutrient-rich soil. Peat moss is sterile and has a slightly acidic pH and doesn’t contain high amounts of nutrients, while compost is very high in nutrients and has either a neutral or slightly alkaline pH. 

If you want to amend and improve your soil or promote the growth of your vegetables, peat moss isn’t the best choice as it doesn’t contain a lot of nutrients. So it’s best to use compost for gardening instead. 

However, you can put peat moss in a new compost pile or add it to an existing one, helping you balance high quantities of nitrogen materials in the compost.

What’s the Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens?

Standard multi-purpose compost includes beneficial plant food, but it’s best to use organic vegetable compost, which contains high organic matter levels and is more suitable for vegetable gardens. 

Aged compost may be the best compost for growing vegetables; the nutrients in aged compost, often called humus, will be the most beneficial for plant roots.

Can Too Much Compost Hurt Plants? 

Although compost builds soil structure and is a good source of nutrients, make sure you don’t put too much compost in your garden as it may harm your soils and plants and can speed up growth without allowing plants to produce sufficient natural pesticides. 

Too much of it can cause problems for plants as it increases the nutrient levels in your soil. It can sometimes trigger burn-like symptoms that underline nutrient imbalance issues.

What’s the Difference Between Compost and Manure?

Manure is organic matter and mainly consists of animal feces. Manure is often mistaken for a type of compost but is actually not. 

Manure on its own isn’t suitable for growing vegetables in a garden or pots. If you add manure to your garden, it should be well rotted beforehand. Otherwise, manure that’s not appropriately rotted can transfer various diseases. 

How Much Compost Should I Add To My Vegetable Garden?

The general rule of gardening with compost is to apply ¼ or ½ inch to the top of your soil, and if you plan to amend your soil, you use 1 to 2 inches of compost. The recommended maximum is 35 percent compost in a soil blend and no more than 25 percent compost in containers or raised beds. 

Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens

Final Conclusion

Adding compost to your vegetable garden is essential to amend your soil and to promote the growth of your vegetables by adding the needed nutrients. 

When choosing the best compost for your garden, you should first know what kind of soil you have in your garden and what your garden needs most. Every type of compost is beneficial for different types of soil. 

However, our advice would be that when growing vegetables, always opt for organic compost as they enrich the soil, help retain moisture, suppress plant diseases and pests, and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

We’ve picked our best five composts available on the market, all of the different types and organic materials. 

Our winner is Charlie’s Compost, as it’s made from only organic matter and is produced with local chicken manure and even certified as organic by the state of Kentucky. It works as a natural fertilizer and soil amendment product. It significantly promotes vegetables’ growth and doesn’t contain any harmful or toxic ingredients, making it the best choice to use in vegetable gardens.

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