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6 Best Organic Composts in 2023 – Reviews & Top Picks

person with white gloves scooping soil compost from bag

person with white gloves scooping soil compost from bag

When growing your own food, you probably want to cultivate the environment so that it’s as close to nature as possible. Organic compost strives to be as free from synthetic chemicals as possible, but it has different standards than the organic food we directly eat. In fact, most organic composts contain manure, which we definitely wouldn’t tolerate in a pallet of organic strawberries. Let’s dig into the different choices for organic compost in 2022, as well as what sets them apart from other plant food such as fertilizer.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost
  • Good price
  • OMRI certified
  • Mostly positive reviews on Amazon
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Black Kow Organic Brands Mushroom Growing Mix Compost Plant Fertilizer Black Kow Organic Brands Mushroom Growing Mix Compost Plant Fertilizer
  • Cheaper than some
  • Positive reviews
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Blue Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost Blue Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost
  • Doesn't contain manure
  • OMRI certified
  • Charlie's Compost Charlie's Compost
  • Contains microbial inoculants
  • Features a variety of ingredients
  • Supports a small business
  • Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure
  • Good price
  • Positive results
  • The 6 Best Organic Composts

    1. R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost – Best Overall

    R&M Organics Premium Organic Compost

    Ingredients: Dairy Cow Manure
    OMRI Certified: Yes
    Contains Animal Waste: Yes

    If you can get over the idea of mixing composted dairy cow manure into the soil of your home garden, we think you’ll like the results. R&M Organics Premium Organic Composts scores as the best overall organic compost on our list because of its moderate price and highly positive reviews. We also appreciate R&M’s mission of planting a tree for every bag purchased.

    R&M is OMRI certified, which means that they must follow stringent safety measures in order to be considered organic. Although the idea of using feces as an “organic” plant food might sound odd, it’s an acceptable practice. We just recommend using garden gloves.

    Pros
    • Good price
    • OMRI certified
    • Mostly positive reviews on Amazon
    Cons
    • Some people may be deterred by the cow manure

    2. Black Kow Organic Brands Mushroom Growing Mix Compost – Best Value

    Black Kow Organic Brands Mushroom Growing Mix Compost

    Ingredients: Composted Mushroom Soil, Cow Manure
    OMRI Certified: No
    Contains Animal Waste: Yes

    This 40 lb. value bag is still a little more expensive than what you might find at the local hardware store, but cheaper than most comparable choices on Amazon. We consider this compost to be the best organic compost choice for the money due to the quality as well as the price.

    The Black Kow brand has a line of organic composts that darkly hints at one of the main ingredients, cow manure. As gross as it sounds, reviews say this compost saved their garden, so we’d be willing to give it a try. This product doesn’t actually contain mushrooms, but it recycles the soil farmers used to grow the fungi for a season. Mushroom compost is a specific type of plant food that’s dense and high in salt. Although most mushroom compost on the market is “cured” before brought into stores to lower the salt content, you still might not want to use this compost on plants with a high sensitivity to salt, such as azaleas.  Additionally, you shouldn’t add mushroom compost to plants that are susceptible to root rot such as succulents.

    Pros
    • Cheaper than some
    • Positive reviews
    Cons
    • Mushroom compost is high in salt
    • Not appropriate for salt sensitive plants
    • Not the best choice for succulents or plants that like dry soil

    3. Blue Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost – Premium Choice

    Ribbon Organics OMRI Certified Organic Compost

    Ingredients: Recycled Green and Brown Materials
    OMRI Certified: Yes
    Contains Animal Waste: No

    Blue Ribbon Organics wins the prize for the most holistic compost. OMRI certified, this compost is held to more rigorous standards than products without the label. Blue Ribbon Organics uses recycled materials such as cut firewood, grass clippings, sod, leaves, vegetable waste, and wood chips. As our premium choice, the price is a little more than some, but that might be because of the superior materials used. Blue Ribbon is one of the only composts that doesn’t use animal waste, although it’s allowed under the OMRI certification.

    Pros
    • Doesn’t contain manure
    • OMRI certified
    Cons
    • Expensive

    4. Charlie’s Compost

    Charlie's Compost 10lb

    Ingredients: Hay, Straw, Corn Stalks, Chicken Manure, Bio Char, Clay Dirt, Microbial Inoculants
    OMRI Certified: No
    Contains Animal Waste: Yes

    We don’t know who Charlie is, but apparently, he knows what he’s doing. This compost is highly favored on Amazon and features a well-rounded blend of ingredients to enhance your soil’s nutrition. Microbial inoculants are an interesting ingredient that’s not found in the other products we reviewed. They’re microorganisms that are added to improve soil health, and are sometimes used as alternatives to fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Although there’s no OMRI certification, we think it’s because Charlie’s is a small business that might not have wanted to bother with the costly certification process.

    Pros
    • Contains microbial inoculants
    • Features a variety of ingredients
    • Supports a small business
    Cons
    • Not OMRI certified

    5. Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure

    Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic Compost and Manure

    Ingredients: Organic Peat, Manure
    OMRI Certified: No
    Contains Animal Waste: Yes

    Michigan Peat 5240 Garden Magic contains two simple ingredients: moss and manure. Gardeners seem to love this compost, as evidenced by the highly positive reviews. It’s listed in bulk for a decent price.

    Peat moss is a little controversial. Some people love to include it in their garden soil because its springy fibers prevent the ground from becoming hard and packed. Others – especially gardeners across the ocean in the U.K. – hate it so much that it’s actually banned in certain countries. Harvesting peat moss produces excessive carbon emissions, and oftentimes destroys the swampy areas where it grows.

    As for now, peat moss is still available for sale in the U.S., making this compost a valid option for gardeners across the continent. This product isn’t OMRI certified but seems to contain organic ingredients.

    Pros
    • Good price
    • Positive results
    Cons
    • Not OMRI certified
    • Peat moss isn’t a sustainable ingredient

    6. Wakefield Compost Hero Biochar Blend

    Wakefield Compost Hero Biochar Blend

    Ingredients: Green waste
    OMRI Certified: Yes
    Contains Animal Waste: No

    You can wake up to a greener garden by using this plant-based compost. Mostly made from recycled pine, this blend is completely manure-free, which makes it a safer choice for gardens with resident children and pets. Bio-activated charcoal makes up 20% of the mixture. It retains nutrients and helps prevent root rot, while the mycorrhizal fungi also support the root systems.

    Since Wakefield is OMRI certified and completely made from green waste, it’s one the most truly organic options on our list. It’s also a peat-free environmentally friendly option. However, we’re pretty disappointed that it only comes in a 1.5 or a 3.5-pound bag because you’d have to order more than one bag just to fill a raised garden bed.

    Pros
    • OMRI certified
    • Plant-based
    • Peat-free
    Cons
    • Comes in a small bag

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    Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Organic Compost

    In an ideal world, everyone would have the time and resources to make their own compost. It’s cheaper and better for the environment since it basically recycles things that would otherwise go in the trash, such as potato peelings, coffee grounds, and trimmings from Saturday’s yard work. Additionally, you have more control over what goes into the mix, allowing you to have a more direct influence over soil pH. However, commercially produced organic compost can save you the time, space, and let’s face it, the stench of making your own. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re browsing for some store-bought compost.

    Compost isn’t necessarily the same thing as fertilizer, but it can be.

    You might be wondering what’s the difference between compost and fertilizer. When most people talk about compost, they’re usually talking about a substance that’s meant to improve the soil quality, while fertilizer is meant to give nutrients to your plants. However, since the quality of the soil directly influences the health of your plants, we think that those labels are a little inaccurate.

    Both compost and fertilizer can be considered “plant food.” The only difference is that fertilizer must contain certain percentages of nutrients such as nitrogen while compost isn’t as standardized. However, some compost manufacturers list the nutrient ratios on their label, which can make them a viable alternative to fertilizer.

    Qualifying factors for “organic” compost

    Unfortunately, the word “organic” has several meanings and connotations. If you’re talking about an organic sack of potatoes at a farmer’s market, then you’re referring to produce that’s grown without a certain list of pesticides and synthetic chemicals. If you’re talking about compost, technically all options are organic because compost is composed of decomposed plant and animal matter. Strictly speaking, anyone can claim to have organic compost under this second definition. This is why it’s important to look for an OMRI certified compost.

    two people with gloves getting soil compost
    Image Credit: Gustavo Fring, Pexels

    The Organic Materials Review Institute is an international group that determines what’s considered organic in agricultural practices that don’t directly deal with food. In the case of compost, they make sure that manure is processed in a way that will render it safe to use, and they ban the use of synthetic chemicals in the materials which will later make up compost. In other words, an OMRI certified compost can’t contain grass clippings that were treated with weed and feed while others can.

    Is peat-free a good thing?

    Peat moss improves soil quality by breaking up the density of the ground, which prevents soil compaction and root rot. It’s a sterile medium that doesn’t really provide food to the plants, but it can be especially beneficial when mixed with a nutritious ingredient such as manure. However, not all gardeners are on board about peat moss. This soil additive is so vehemently opposed that some countries in the U.K. have banned it.

    Ecologically speaking, peat moss isn’t very sustainable or eco-friendly. Harvesting peat moss produces excessive carbon emissions and utterly destroys the ecosystems where it grows, which is detrimental to surrounding plant and animal life. Since it’s such a controversial topic, we’ve included some products with peat moss and some without so that you can make whatever decision you think is best.

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    Conclusion

    Next time you’re planning your organic garden, look for organic compost to improve the soil without the use of synthetic chemicals. R & M Organics Premium Choice is pure cow manure, but it’s our best overall choice because of the good results, decent price, and OMRI certification, which means that there were safety measures in place to kill off harmful microorganisms. Black Kow Organic Brands Mushroom Growing Mix is another manure-rich choice that seems to be good quality for the cheap price.

    If you’re looking for a premium choice, Blue Ribbon Organics is OMRI-certified and free from manure, utilizing recycled green and brown waste. To find the best choice for your vegetable patch, consider which factors are important to you. Explore your options and decide on factors such as whether you’re okay with spreading manure or if you’d like to go vegan, or if you’re fine with peat moss or want to keep your garden peat-free.


    Featured Image Credit: Thirdman, Pexels

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