Did you know that composting is one of the most effective ways to reduce fertilizer costs? It also helps prevent soil erosion, improves water retention, and increases nutrient availability.
If you have a vegetable garden, you probably already know how important composting is. But do you know what the best compost for vegetable gardens is?
In this article, I’ll share with you the best types of compost for vegetable gardens and how to choose compost for vegetable gardens.
If you’re in a hurry, here are the best compost for vegetable garden options:
- Best Overall – Charlie’s Compost
- Best Luxury Compost – Super Compost
- Best Value for Money – Wakefield Premium Compost
- Best for Heavy Feeding Vegetables – Purple Cow Tomato Grow
Benefits of Using Compost for Vegetable Gardens
Composting is an excellent way to recycle organic matter into something useful. The process of converting food scraps into compost can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. But no matter how you compost, there are many benefits to using composting.
- Compost keeps the nutrient content of your soil topped up. Each year, your vegetables will take nutrients from the earth to help them grow. These nutrients will need to be added back into your soil for the next growing season. Compost is the perfect way to do this without having to rely on costly fertilizer.
- Regularly digging in compost will improve the condition of your soil. As well as adding nutrients, the additional benefit of compost is that it will improve your soil. Digging in organic matter will keep the topsoil in great condition, preventing erosion and encouraging microbial activity. Compost also attracts worms who aerate the ground and leave worm castings that contain beneficial microbes for disease prevention and pest control.
- Vegetable gardens produce a lot of green matter. Turning this waste into compost will re-introduce any nutrients that the plant has absorbed over the growing season back into your soil. Composting and vegetable gardening go hand-in-hand, and if you are lucky enough to have the space for even a small composter, you can reap the benefits of any waste materials you produce.
- Compost can be used as mulch. You don’t necessarily have to dig compost into the ground. It can be used very effectively as a mulch. By spreading compost around your vegetables, it can suppress weeds, hold in moisture, and give your plants nutrients throughout the growing season.
- Compost will help both drainage and water retention in your soil. Compost is a great amendment for any type of soil as it helps with drainage, water retention, and aeration. All of this promotes healthy and unrestricted root growth. If you have difficult soil to grow in, digging in compost can dramatically change the composition of your soil, making it more favorable to grow delicious vegetables.
Best Compost for Vegetable Gardens
The best compost will usually be one you make yourself, as it is free and uses materials that would otherwise be discarded. However, you may not be able to compost at home, and if this is the case, there are plenty of commercially available compost that will suit your needs.
Most compost will be multipurpose as its blend of nutrients will suit the needs of most plants. Below I’ve listed five great compost brands that are commercially available and will benefit your vegetables and soil.
1. Best Overall – Charlie’s Compost
Charlie’s Compost is a great all-round compost that’s primary ingredient is chicken manure. It works well for vegetable gardens, but some find the 10lb bag a bit too small for larger plots. You may need to purchase multiple bags.
- Learn more about How Much Compost is Needed.
While this compost can be used for all vegetables, chicken manure is perfect for fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers.
2. Best Luxury Compost – Super Compost
Super Compost is a concentrated compost made of matured cow manure, alfalfa, and worm castings.
As it is concentrated, it can turn your topsoil into rich compost. The bag claims that 8lbs can make 40lbs of compost. It is organic and non-GMO. While it may seem expensive for an 8lb bag, the compost can enrich any soil, even clay.
It is great if you want high-impact but don’t have much storage space. Cow manure is perfect for heavy feeders like pumpkin, celery, and squash.
Super Compost by Soil Blend. 8 Lb. Bag of Super Compost Organic Plant Food. 2-2-2 Concentrated (8 lbs. Makes 40 lbs.) Larger Yields, Bigger, Tastier Fruits & Vegetables. Nutrient Dense.
- OMRI listed
- American Vegetarian Association Approved & Recommended
- + Calcium & Iron
- Odor Free
- Safe around people, pets, wildlife and the environment
3. Best Value for Money – Wakefield Premium Compost
Wakefield Premium Compost is a multipurpose compost that will improve the condition of your soil.
It is aged compost that is OMRI listed, so it is safe to use in organic gardening. It comes in a 42lb bag and is great value for money.
Wakefield Premium Compost – OMRI Listed, FSC-Certified – 100% Organic Compost for Healthy Lawn and Garden Soil – Aged Compost Soil Amendment for Vegetable Gardens, Flowers and Plants – 1 cu/ft
- OMRI-LISTED, 100% ORGANIC – All-natural premium Wakefield Premium Compost is made in the USA from untreated wood feedstock, with naturally occurring active fungi and bacteria, perfect for organic gardening.
- HEALTHY SOIL CONDITIONER – Blend Wakefield Premium Compost into the top 4-6 inches of soil to create healthy conditions
4. Best for Heavy Feeding Vegetables – Purple Cow Tomato Grow
The Purple Cow Tomato Grow compost contains added nutrients and is specifically formulated for tomato plants. It is 100% organic and doesn’t contain any manure. It is also prepared to help resist blight and blossomend rot so that it can be used for other heavy feeders like pepper, eggplants, and pumpkins.
Purple Cow Organics 37309 Tomato GRO, 12 Quart
- COMPOST BASED! Get all of the benefits of adding compost PLUS an added blend of nutrients and fertility
- FOR TOMATOES AND MORE! The added nutrients and minerals in Tomato Gro were scientifically formulated for the tomato plant and other heavy feeding vegetables
- FEED ALL YOUR PLANTS! One bag
How to Choose Compost for Vegetable Gardens
There are many things to look for when choosing compost for your vegetable garden. Below is a list of a few things to consider.
1. What plants are you planning to grow?
While most composts are good all-round, you may want to consider the nutrient base because different vegetables need different nutrients.
- Legumes need nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous with small amounts of calcium, manganese, and iron.
- Root vegetables usually need extra phosphorus.
- Heavy feeders like additional nitrogen.
- Calcium can help prevent blossom-end rot.
You can, of course, get (or make) fertilizer to supplement the compost, but if you choose your compost wisely, it may eliminate the need for fertilizer.
Learn more about Easy Vegetables to Grow.
2. Test the pH balance of your soil.
Vegetables like a neutral pH level, so you may need to balance out your existing soil.
By checking the pH before purchasing any compost, you can look for the right ingredients that complement your soil.
Read more about How to Make Vegetable Garden Soil.
3. Where are you growing?
Whether you are growing in the ground or in pots, it will affect the type of compost you need.
If you plan to dig it into an existing vegetable patch, you will want compost which doubles as a soil amendment.
However, if you are growing in pots, you will need one that has higher moisture retention and possibly added nutrients.
4. Are you growing from seeds, cuttings, or established plants?
Seedlings and cuttings are much more delicate than established plants, so you will need a different compost in order to promote healthy root growth.
Select a compost that is high in phosphate to help root development, but that is low in nitrogen to protect the newly formed shoots.
Compost vs. Manure for Vegetable Gardens
You may be wondering whether to use manure or compost in your garden. Well, you may have noticed that some commercially available compost contains manure.
This addition is because you cannot use fresh manure directly on your plants, and it is necessary to age it first; otherwise, it might burn the plant due to the high levels of nitrogen in the dung. The best way to age manure yourself is to add it to your compost heap.
Commercially available manure is always matured before it is sold, so it is usually safe to use immediately. However, you should always check the supplier’s instructions before adding it to your soil.
Before I go into which is best to use, I will break down what exactly each substance is.
What is Compost?
Compost is decomposed organic matter. This classification does include manure, but compost can be made up of any organic substance, from leaves to fish-bones.
Good compost has a balance of carbon and nitrogen to give it its earthy smell and soil-like texture.
Compost is an excellent soil amendment, providing more benefits than just nutrients alone.
What is Manure?
Manure is any animal dung that is used as fertilizer. Usually, it is from herbivores, and it can help condition soil, improving its moisture retention.
Waste from meat-eaters, like dogs and cats, is not as nutrient-rich as herbivore dung, and it has a higher chance of containing parasites and viruses.
However, any dung can contain diseases like E.coli, so many people might be hesitant to use it on food crops.
If you do want to use manure, apply it to the soil at the end of the growing season and allow it to age at least four months before planting any vegetables. Manure should be aged for at least 4-6 months before being used for any edible crops.
Commercially available manure is usually aged before you purchase it, but it is normally sold as a fertilizer or a component of compost rather than as compost in its own right. The dung from different animals has a different NPK content (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium).
Chicken droppings have around 1.1% nitrogen, 0.8% Phosphorus, and 0.5% Potassium. Compare this to cow manure, which has far less nitrogen at 0.6% and half the amount of phosphorus at 0.4%. Which manure you need will depend on the vegetable plants you are growing and the current NPK content of your soil.
Compost vs Manue – Which is Better for Vegetable Gardens?
To summarize, manure can be a great additive to compost or can be used as a fertilizer. But compost is usually better to use on vegetables.
If you are going for compost that contains manure, check which type of animal the manure comes from and compare this to your plant’s needs and your soil requirements.
If you are lucky enough to be able to compost yourself, plants like comfrey are a great addition as their deep roots will suck up nutrients that your vegetables won’t be able to access. Chopping the leaves up and adding them to the compost will help to enrich the compost and give your plants a boost.
If you are growing vegetables, compost is infinitely preferable to fertilizer. While fertilizer will provide your plants with the nutrients they need, it will do nothing for the longevity of your soil.
Digging in compost will continually improve the condition of your soil and will help you to keep growing crops year after year without worrying about stripping your soil.
Compost for Vegetable Gardens Final Thoughts
Compost is one of the best things you can add for your vegetable garden. It improves the health of your soil, gives you fantastic results when you eat your produce, and helps to reduce waste.
Check out these other articles about growing vegetables: