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.

26 Comments

  1. Bryan McGrath on July 23, 2011 at 1:57 am

    The best and fastest way I have found to make compost is using the Bokashi Method.  I have used it for two years with awesome results and even sell the Bokashi Bran to friends here in Georgia. Recycling all kitchen and garden wastes into fresh compost in 4 weeks is the best I have found yet.

    • Astrid Muschalla on February 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

       I like it too because you can water your indoor plants with the weekly drainage during the process of making it. Plus, here in the winter months, it beats going out the the frozen compost pile, which by now is full.

      • Phil on February 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm

        Amen to that.

  2. AdamSaab on August 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    O for Origin, know where your compost comes from. You don’t need to buy bags of compost shipped from out of state.

  3. Patraka das on August 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I want to know if mushroom compost is a good idea. I have purchased it in the past and seen good results but I am a little skeptical. It is delivered “unfinished” and smells very strong. Is it ok to use or will it cause problems?

    • Phil on August 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

      It depends where you get it, but it often has a lot of pesticide residue and excess calcium that was added to grow the mushrooms.

  4. Janet Blayone on December 15, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I vote “O” for Origin, too. My dad was a commercial mushroom grower. While steam pasteurization was part of the grow cycle, the amount of chemicals used in growing mushrooms back then was incredible. Probably hasn’t changed much. The name that better describes the stuff is “spent mushroom substrate”, and from what I remember it was  high in salts and too “rich” (as my dad would call it) to use on seedlings or starting seeds. 

  5. Faith Hsieh on March 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I am glad that I came across your blog while I am learning to compost and plan on starting out my first organic balcony gardening…which I find it to be really challenging , since there are issues concerning only to balcony gardening which I really hope I am heading towards the right dirrection.I have also find info. on E.M. and Bokashi composting helpful for my apartment dwelling and gardening combo. But how should I use the end product of Bokashi comosting–the solid part, if I don’t have a place to bury it, and I will be using container gardening? Can I just bury it using container loading with potting soil? How much potting soil should I use to bury for a bin of Bokashi compost and for how long before I can turn them into something I can use to nourish my container gardening soil? Thanks for your advice!

    • Phil on March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Faith, I think it would take awhile to break down in a container. You might want to get a small composter to put on your balcony, since it will take awhile to become compost.

  6. Paul Holton on March 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Hello. Where can I buy organic compost in Brooklyn N.Y.

    • Phil on March 15, 2013 at 2:18 am

      Sorry, no idea.

    • Al William on April 1, 2013 at 2:09 am

      Long Island Compost Co. Check the net for retailers/dealers. It’s literally your neighbor.Bumper Crop is good too from The Coast of Maine. Most independent garden centers carry the product.

  7. Sarahcakes on April 15, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Any idea where to buy good organic compost in Mt. Bethel PA area?

  8. Barb on May 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    What are your thoughts on Sea Soil?

    • Phil on May 11, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      It’s been a few years since I used it, but I don’t think it’s worth the price, and it’s great that they’re recycling those materials, but I’m not sure I want to be putting a lot of coniferous wood/bark (even if composted) into my soil. The compost used to be very deficient in calcium, too, when I used it. So that’s just my opinion, but some people like the stuff.

  9. Adrian on September 16, 2013 at 3:36 am

    O – odour. Shouldn’t smell like garbage or ammonia

    • Phil on September 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Nice!

  10. John Vines on September 18, 2014 at 2:13 am

    O for odor. That good earthy smell.

  11. John Vines on September 18, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Forget that. Smell is already there. My bad.

  12. WatchingAngels on May 18, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Sooooo very much out of date, but what the heck…I was thinking ‘O’ for occupied by beneficial living critters.

  13. Shamil on September 29, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Recycles 1 million cubic meters of waste wood processing enterprises. I have to run 100 thousand tons of compost from rotting sawdust. I am looking for a buyer.shamak7@mail.ru

  14. Margaret Jonas on March 2, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I live in Blanco Tx would like to find a composting farm. I have around 20+ acres Iwod like to compost so my wild flowers will thrive.

  15. Peter on March 30, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I am on Cape Cod. Can go anywhere in SE MA or RI to get compost. Need couple of yards. Do you know where I can find it?

    Thanks!

    • Phil on March 31, 2017 at 7:32 am

      Sorry, no. I don’t keep tabs on compost across the whole country. Would be a nice website for someone to create, though.

  16. Raisa Delima on September 6, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    That’s a great idea to ask about the raw materials found in a compost. Even if you don’t know much about the materials you are told, you can look them up and find out how beneficial to the soil they will be. I think it would also be a good idea to look up a few ideas of what you should find in a compost before searching so that you don’t have to waste too much time looking it up later. Either way works, though!

  17. Kasey on November 10, 2017 at 5:22 am

    Organisms for O… Compost should contain life.. bugs, worms and living organisms

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