8 Best Composts for Gardens in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks
Compost brings many benefits to a garden. First, it improves the structure of the soil, boosts air circulation, and helps retain moisture. Second, compost supplies the soil with the right elements/nutrients to boost plant growth. More than that, it’s an eco-friendly product: compost reduces the percentage of waste sent to landfills. And you can, of course, make your own pile of compost.
However, that takes time, dedication, and knowledge of what can and can’t be put into the pile. And if you’re reading this, we’re guessing you don’t have the desire to do any of it. Instead, you’re looking to buy bagged compost. We can help you with that! The following list includes in-depth reviews of eight market-leading compost products for your garden. Check out their pros and cons, read our expert recommendations, and take a pick!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2024
|Wakefield Compost Hero Biochar Blend
|Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost
|R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost
|Purple Cow Organics Ready to Use Tomato GRO
The 8 Best Composts for Gardens
1. Charlie’s Compost—Best Overall
Looking for compost to amend the soil, strengthen its structure and improve aeration? You just found it! Charlie’s Compost is shipped in a simple plastic bag, yet it’s incredibly efficient at enriching the soil with nutrients and stimulating plant growth. Thanks to a “killer” mix of ingredients—hay, clay, straw, manure, and a wide range of microbes—the formula covers more ground than the average 10-pound pile. And that’s one of the factors that make it the best overall compost for your gardens.
More good news: you won’t find any rocky or bulky pieces inside the bag. The compost is well-milled and ready to use the very second the package arrives at your doorstep. Lastly, the company backs its products with fast and helpful customer service. You can even call the support team and ask them for guidance. Be very careful when adding this mix to newly-planted vegetables, though! Since the compost is very strong, it might burn their fragile roots and stems.
2. Wakefield Compost Hero Biochar Blend—Best Value
Depending on how big or small your garden is, you might not need tens of pounds of compost. If that’s the case, Wakefield Compost Hero Biochar Blend will be the best purchase for you. First, this compost is quite cheap compared to the market average. Second, this 4.2-pound/1-gallon bag is a mighty combination of compost (80%) and biochar (20%). The charcoal prevents the carbon from escaping the soil, boosting overall growth by endorsing microbe activity.
Oh, and don’t worry: it’s harmless both for the soil and the plants. But that’s not even why Wakefield Hero is the best compost for your gardens for the money. The mycorrhizal fungi that come as part of the blend make the compost a 100% safe product for organic gardens.
3. Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost—Premium Choice
Up next, we have Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost, a company that boasts fast, hassle-free deliveries across the country. As for its compost, it’s an OMRI-certified product, meaning it only contains organic compounds. And, in contrast to most bagged composts, this one goes really well with worm castings. So, if the goal is to improve water retention, soil aeration, and anchor plants, this 35-pound bag will be the right investment.
With RO, you’ll get more than enough compost to cover a large garden or dozens of beds. The price tag is a bit steep. But it’s well worth it, especially if you want to mix the compost with various soil builders. Besides, it’s safe to use at any concentration—you don’t have to empty the whole bag!
4. R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost
While this product is not as cheap as the Wakefield compost, R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost is still an affordable option as a 10-pound compost bag. One of its biggest pros is water retention. If you’re having a problem with the soil not being able to hold on to moisture, this organic material will fix that right up. The compost smells good, too: it has a lovely earthy odor and can serve as an all-purpose fertilizer for your plants.
Unfortunately, quality control might be an issue. Some buyers complain about the compost being rather old (like 1–2 years old) and lacking in nutrients. Others claim that it can be a bit of a challenge to empty the compost from the bag. Going back to the pros, R&M Organics, a family-owned brand, plants a tree for every single bag sold.
5. Purple Cow Organics Ready to Use Tomato GRO
This compost was specifically formulated with tomatoes in mind. For gardeners that have hundreds of tomato seeds already planted, Purple Cow Organics Ready to Use Tomato GRO will amend the soil, keep pests at bay, and increase crop yields. The compost is mixed with rock and sea minerals. They make the tomatoes grow even faster and get bigger. The same goes for peppers, by the way.
Sadly, the efficiency of this all-natural activated compost isn’t nearly as impressive with other plants. You can still use it, but don’t expect the results to be groundbreaking. The delivery times are a con as well: depending on where you live, it may take an extra day or two before the package arrives. But, that’s compensated by the ease of use and a decent size.
6. Urban Garden Outfitters Premium Organic Compost
What do you do when you’ve used most of the compost but there’s still some left in the bag? You put the bag away, hoping it doesn’t get in the way. That won’t ever be an issue with Urban Garden Outfitters because it’s packed in a resealable bag. It’s pretty small (only 3 pounds), lightweight, and takes zero effort to seal. And what about the actual compound—is it any good?
The compost is mixed with volcanic rock powder. It serves as a generous source of nutrients for plants. However, the overall efficiency is average compared to the competition. Furthermore, while this is a 100% US-made product, customer support is a bit slow and doesn’t always come through.
7. Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure
Most compost products do a good job of balancing the acidity levels in the soil. But the Michigan Peat Magic compost takes that to another level. You can add it to a lawn, garden beds, or individual plants, and the compost will always fix the pH levels, aiding your vegetables, flowers, and herbs with growth. Next, the compost is screened and has a uniform consistency.
It does have a slight odor, though, simply because it’s mixed with manure. Furthermore, once spread over the soil, it sometimes attracts certain bugs. More than that, you might find some insects or worms inside the package. This only happened to a very small percentage of customers, of course.
8. Dr. Earth 1–1/2 Cubic Feet All Purpose Compost
Gardeners searching for all-purpose compost should pay extra attention to Dr. Earth All Purpose Compost. While it’s not particularly great at improving aeration, it is 100% natural and hand-crafted. The mix is rich in kelp meal, alfalfa meal, and earthworm castings. The beneficial microbes inside of the compost help both the soil and the plants, especially in harsh climates.
Quality assurance at Dr. Earth is lacking, though, and some bags include tiny pebbles. Also, the organics aren’t always composted, meaning you’ll have to do some turning to get the product there. But, other than that, this product is ideal for amending shrubs, trees, veggies, and lawns. You can even use it as mulch.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Composts for Gardens
A good compost will help you grow an abundance of your own homegrown vegetables. When looking to buy compost to use in your vegetable garden, there are a few things to keep in mind.
What Is Compost? How Does It Work?
This term is used to describe the natural process of decay. Organic matter on the planet goes through a recycling process, turning from its original form into what’s known as compost. The list includes leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, and even newspapers, to name a few. Ultimately, all you have to do is put organic waste into one big pile and wait for it to decompose.
To speed things up, use a rake to turn the pile so that every single bit gets its fair share of worms and moisture. Cutting the waste into smaller parts, adding lots of nitrogen and carbon, and ensuring proper exposure to the sun will make the organics break down even sooner. As the compost reaches the final stages, it gets significantly smaller (up to 50%) and develops an earthy smell.
What Is Compost Made Of?
When microorganisms feed on organic waste, it decomposes within weeks. But for the compost to be of high quality, it needs two chemical elements: nitrogen (N) and carbon (C). You’ll find plenty of nitrogen in vegetables, fruits, animals, freshly-cut grass, and branches. Nitrogen-rich waste is often called “greens” and is a biodegradable material. Next, we have the so-called “browns”—recyclables that are rich in carbon.
Paper, twigs, and leaves (dead ones) are perfect browns. So, there you have it! Most compost piles around the globe are composed of organics with just the right balance of nitrogen and carbon (25–30 parts of C to every 1 part of N). Again, to ensure proper air circulation, cut the waste into tiny pieces and turn the compost once in a while.
Different Types of Composting: What’s the Difference?
Making Compost: How Long Does That Take?
There are no simple answers here. In one case, you’ll have to wait for a year or two before the process is complete. But in another situation, the compost will be ready in 1–2 months, or even sooner. Have you heard about the Berkeley technique? It’s the fastest way to turn a pile into compost. Here’s how you do it:
On average, this takes 14–18 days.
The Biggest Pros of Compost
Compost does wonders in the hands of a skilled gardener. But what about its benefits for the environment, though? What are the biggest pros of composting apart from feeding the plants and making the soil stronger?
Here’s a quick look:
The Biggest Cons of Compost
Are there any downsides to making compost for your plants? Yes, there are. And while they aren’t nearly as big as the pros, we still want you to check them out:
Now that we’re done with the reviews and the Buyer’s Guide, let’s sum up. Charlie’s Compost is the best overall choice. It is rich in nutrients, well-milled, and backed by helpful support. The Wakefield compost, in turn, carries the best value. It is mixed with biochar and mycorrhizal fungi and is quite affordable. And if you want the best compost for your garden, we have just the right pick: Ribbon Organics. It comes in a 35-pound bag, boosts air circulation, and works well with worm castings.
Good luck and happy gardening!
Featured Image Credit: jokevanderleij8. Pixabay