Where To Buy Compost - Tips For Finding The Good Stuff

Where To Buy Compost
The above picture is poor, but it shows where I bought some compost this year.

There are a few important things you need to know about where to buy compost.

I encourage people to compost themselves if possible, but I know that some gardeners will find it easier buying compost. In terms of how to buy compost, you can go to your local garden center, a compost/soil/mulch provider, a farmer, or the municipality.

You can buy compost in bags, but I almost always go for bulk. That's less expensive and I usually need to bring in at least a yard.

Where To Buy Compost:

  • When buying compost, it should smell good, not like garbage. If it smells like ammonia, it's not done.
  • I shouldn’t have to say it, but it should not contain garbage. I once received a load of 15 yards of compost that was full of pieces of plastic, produced by a recycling company. I got my money back.
  • When searching for where to buy compost, it should look and feel like dark, rich, fluffy soil. If you can still discern a lot of the raw materials, it’s not done.
  • For the most part, we want our purchased compost to be all organic matter, not mixed with soil. There are rare cases when you may bring in soil, but for the most part, you probably want just compost.
  • It's nice if the compost has earthworms and other insects living in it, which indicates it has some capacity to support life.
  • Ask about the raw materials. You want leaves, grass clippings, plants, food scraps and manure. You don't want toxic waste, sewage sludge (aka biosolids) or "inert" ingredients. You don't want much of any bark because it's not nutritious and contains toxins.
  • Unless you manage to buy organic compost from an organic farmer, you'll have to live with a bit of pesticide residue from the grass clippings and leaves. Most of that should be broken down by a good compost pile. The small amount that is left over should eventually be broken down. A bit of toxins is just part of the world we live in now.
  • Don't pay too much. I have never lived in a city where I found great compost, but there is usually something acceptable. I didn't tend to go for the $75/yard stuff that people swore by when I lived out west. It was made with a lot of bark, which I didn't want, and certainly didn't think was worth the price. I have usually been able to find something decent for $20-$40/yard in the places where I've lived. I might pay more, for example, from an organic or biodynamic farmer if I felt they were making a really nice compost.

So that's the basics on how to buy compost. Some purchased compost will not have been properly cured, so although I know it’s not often feasible, if you have a month or two to let it continue composting on your property, that would be beneficial.

I've gone ahead and tried to make a COMPOST acronym to make all of this easier to remember. I need something for the "O", though. Leave me a comment if you think of something. Hehe.

  • Complete. Raw materials should be mostly broken down.
  • Organic Only. Should buy straight compost, not mixed with soil.
  • Materials. Avoid sludge, toxins, inert ingredients, and too much bark.
  • Price. Should be $20-$40/yard in most places - not more unless there's a good reason.
  • O. ??
  • Smell. It should smell good, not like garbage, ammonia, sulfur, or putrefied disgustingness.
  • Touch. It should feel light, moist and alive.

Any questions on where to buy compost? Or is there anything I left out? Or can you help me finish or improve my acronym?

Feel free to let me know below.

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