Here you are. You’re going to be gardening or maybe you have already started? This year you really want the best vegetable crop ever. So, you need to know the best compost for garden vegetables. Do you buy compost for your garden? Or, are you going to make your own compost?
The very best compost for vegetable gardeners is probably going to be a homemade perfect, wholesome, organic mix that is brewed in the backyard. The reality, however, is that composting is a slow process dependent on the materials you can add to your compost heap. It might take years to get the perfect mix and rate of decomposition going. Home composting is a work in progress.
If you are quite new to gardening you’ll probably need to buy compost, at least to begin with. Then, you will gradually work on improving your soil and building your own compost. Depending on your soil, your budget, and how you grow, you might need to add some bought soil, compost, or manure for a few years. Once your garden and your compost pile are established and you’ve learned what other nutrients you can supplement your soil and your plants with on a continuous basis you won’t need to buy anything at all.
Let’s look at the two options, the best bagged compost for vegetable garden to buy and how to get your garden making the best compost mix for itself.
What’s the best compost to buy for vegetable gardens?
Now you’re thinking about heading off to the garden centre and want to know what’s the best store-bought compost for your vegetable garden. The options in the stores in springtime are literally endless.
You can buy potting soil, water-retaining soil, compost that’s designed to be added to your vegetable beds, peat moss, and a multitude of different manures. There are cheaper options, more expensive premium options, and organic options. You can even buy compost, garden soil, and manure in bulk. So here are some considerations:
What soil do you have in your garden already, and what does it need?
If you are gardening on a budget or just want to keep your costs low the best place to find soil, at least to start you off, could be your own garden. Do you have garden beds already? What’s the soil like under your grass? Take a look at the soil you have and research or test what it might contain and how good it is for growing vegetables already. If you have some good soil to start with you might just need to buy some potting soil to start your seeds and some composted manure to quickly add nutrients to existing soil.
How are you going to be growing, what, and where?
Existing garden beds might just need some extra nutrients. Good soil for vegetables is rich in organic matter, or organic matter that has broken down over time, like a good home compost mix. If you are planting straight into a garden bed, right in the ground, your plants will be able to reach lots of nutrients that are in the soil already.
If you are building raised garden beds or growing in pots and containers it’s up to you to make sure you have a good mix for growing. In raised beds, pots and containers plants will quickly use up any nutrients and be unable to reach more. This type of growing definitely needs good compost. That said, large raised beds and large pots can have layers of other materials, such as branches and leaves on the bottom. This matter will eventually break down and provide nutrients. Raised beds can be a mix of good garden soil with compost added to feed your vegetables.
If you are starting seeds in pots or trays to plant out later into your garden beds, then potting soil, specialist seed starting soil, or good old multi-purpose compost is the way to go to give your vegetables a head start.
The last consideration here is the type of vegetables you will be growing. Some like more acidic soil, others more a more neutral pH. It can be easy to amend your soil if you have a good base to start from. For example, tomatoes will benefit from crushed egg shells from your kitchen and some fruit bushes like a sprinkle of used coffee grounds.
Do you want to grow organically?
If you are planning to grow vegetables organically then you have to more closely consider what soil they will be growing in. Unless it’s branded such, bought compost is rarely considered completely organic. If you are planning to buy compost for your organic garden then you need to seek out a compost that is clearly labelled as organic.
What is in the compost you are buying?
Organic compost should contain mostly decomposed green and brown plant matter though it can contain organic animal manure. Non-organic compost can be a bit of a grey area.
Store-bought composts have been found to contain things you just don’t want to grow your vegetables in, like plastics, traces of human manure and chemicals. For this reason, look closely into what the compost you are buying contains and what it is recommended to be used for. There are many opinions as to what kind of compost is the best for vegetable gardening.
What’s your budget?
You can easily spend a small fortune on compost, soil and manure for your garden. If you can afford to then investing a reasonable amount into good growing mediums will set you up for the future. You can keep amending your soil year after year with new nutrients, ideally sourced from your own compost once you get that going.
If you are gardening on a budget then first look at what you can use in your garden. Is your soil usable? Do you have garden waste like leaves or kitchen scraps that will decompose quickly you can start adding right away. With a little research and creativity, you can start a vegetable garden on a very low or even zero budget.
Now, choose the compost you buy carefully
With all these considerations in mind, you’re now armed with some information to seek out the best compost to buy for vegetable gardening and how to find the best commercial compost for vegetable gardens.
Another tip, look for other sources than garden centres and grocery stores. Local farms and companies may have soil, mulch and manure you can buy cheaply or pick up for free. But, always make sure you know the source, what’s in it and how it should be used in your garden.
How do you make the best compost in your own garden?
The very best compost for garden vegetables is made in your garden. You’ll have to be patient. The vegetable and fruit scraps, leaves, coffee grinds, branches, sticks and lawn grass clippings you add to your compost pile will take time to decompose. It’s only when you can dig out a finer dark earth-looking matter that you have actually made compost that you can grow your plants in.
Decide how you will compost in your garden
The first step to composting in your garden is deciding where to put your compost. There’s lots to research here like whether will it smell and how to stop your compost from attracting animals and pests. Then you need to decide if you will have a compost bin, multiple compost bins in the popular 3-bin compost method, or just a good old-fashioned compost heap in a corner.
You can also buy compost bins and a little research might find you the best compost bin for your garden, The best compost bin for small garden vegetable growing might be something like a compost tumbler.
Start collecting and adding materials
Once you have decided how and where to compost you can start composting right away and little by little. Add your fruit and vegetable peelings and scraps as they come out of your kitchen. The same with coffee grinds and eggshells. Add lawn clippings when you mow the lawn, though if you have pets you might not want to use these. You can always ask a pet-free neighbour for their clippings instead!
Add plant matter from your garden as you have it, leaves in the fall, branches and sticks and such as you prune. Compost piles or compost bins need to have a good mix of green matter, like fruit rinds and cauliflower leaves as well as brown matter like leaves and twigs and animal manure. If you are adding animal manure to your compost always check what’s safe and how long it will be before you can use it for growing your vegetables.
Read the difference: Compost pile vs bin.
Learn how to speed up your composting
The decomposition process for a compost bin or heap can take a long time if you are just gradually adding materials as you have them. It could be a solid year or more before you are able to dig in and find usable matter. If you want to take a more active approach to your composting you can speed up the process. This can be as simple as adding exactly the right mix and turning it regularly or you can try methods like hot composting or vermiculture. Here’s our guide on how to speed up composting.
You nearly have the answers to start finding (or making) the best compost for garden vegetables, but let’s look at a last few specific questions.
How do you get the best organic compost for vegetable gardening?
For a purely organic garden, you have to know what’s in every material you add to your compost and what is in every bag of compost you buy. After that, the rules are the same, the right mix of compost and soil, or brown and green matter in your compost pile is going to give you the best organic compost.
What is the best compost for garden beds?
We covered some pointers for getting the soil right for your in-ground garden beds. If you have raised beds there are a few complexities. Taking soil into a smaller or higher area means that it is more susceptible to heat from the sun or cold in the winter.
So, raised beds will dry out faster in the heat. And, without proper drainage raised beds will become waterlogged quickly. These factors, and the fact that your vegetables will “use-up, up” the nutrients in the soil faster than in the ground, add extra considerations for finding the best compost and you might need more of it.
If you are using homemade compost you can add extra or amend the beds with more of exactly what the type of vegetables you are growing need. If you are buying compost certain types are recommended for pots and raised beds. Other soils, black earth, for example, is often not recommended for pots or raised beds because it compacts and gives poor drainage and aeration.
What is the best compost for fruit growing?
Fruit trees and bushes do have slightly different soil and nutrient needs than vegetables. Large trees or productive berry bushes needs lots of nutrients. That said, some fruits will thrive perfectly well left to their own devices in normal garden soil. Just look how well blackberries do! A good multi-purpose compost or well-matured garden compost works but some fruits will do well with a heavy dose of well-composted chicken or cow manure.
What is the best soil mix for vegetable gardens?
That’s exactly it! The question is not so much what is the best compost for vegetable gardening. If you’re a new gardener what you are really aiming for is the best soil mix, or soil and compost mix. Aim for the best you can achieve given the space available, your time, your plans and your budget.
The answer is just to try your hardest. Compost at home and buy compost in the meantime if you can, even if that’s a small amount to start amending and improving your soil gradually. Different vegetables prefer slightly different variations of soil and some will grow well or better in poorer soils Do lots of research on what vegetables will grow well in your own garden. Over time you can make the best soil mix and the best compost for your garden vegetables.