Question –

Where can I find quality compost?

Where can I get my soil and/or compost tested for nutrients and get help on what’s needed?”

Answer –

We share how to find high-quality compost – no matter where you live – along with soil testing labs we trust below!

Compost –

Finding high-quality compost has become trickier in the past few years for reasons ranging from glyphosate (RoundUp) and pharmaceutical contamination to toxic materials used in feedstock to make the compost. 

There are three main ways to get the highest, nutrient-rich compost to your garden soil –

Make your own

Assuming this is feasible for your garden, making your own compost—even on a small scale—is always the best option for quality and nutrient content. You control everything, from what goes into the compost to the amendments and supplements you choose to boost the fertility and resiliency of your garden soil. This is the most economical approach but requires more time than the other two methods. 

To introduce you to the idea of what type of compost you can make in your backyard, carport, or patio, we’ve written Compost – Nourishing Your Soil that walks you through the basic process, along with simple nutrient-stacking amendments to boost the effectiveness of your finished compost seriously.

Buy locally

If you can’t make your own compost, the next best solution is to buy it from someone producing it locally. Financially, this is the middle of the range of the three approaches and doesn’t require as much of your time as making your own. 

You’ll need to invest some time to find who produces compost locally, or at least as local as you’re willing to drive. Talking with garden club members and master gardeners or an online search can give you a good starting list. Tell prospective suppliers what you are growing, and ask how they make their compost. Points to those producers who invite you to see their operation, as they are most likely making the best compost they can and aren’t cutting corners.

Buy from a trusted supplier and ship it in

Even if you can (and do) make your compost, buying from a top-shelf maker to supplement your soil every couple of seasons can make a noticeable difference in your soil health. This is the high end of the cost range, as you’ll be paying for the product – most likely in bags – and shipping to get it to you if it isn’t available at a store within driving distance. Another option is to do a group buy to get a larger shipment of bags for your club or group of friends. 

You’ll still need to research and talk to the suppliers, much as when buying locally, if not more so. Established, professional compost makers will often have test results for their compost, which gives a better picture of what you are getting for your dollars. 

Vermont Compost Company and Coast of Maine are two established and well-recommended compost companies we’ve heard of – but don’t have experience with. 

A list of compost companies is available from one of the soil testing companies we’ll discuss in a minute! 

Soil Testing –

As you might expect, there is a dump truck full of soil testing companies – do a quick search, and you’ll find your head spinning! To make things just a bit more challenging, many of them don’t focus on home gardeners. 

Your local Cooperative Extension office often offers a basic N, P, and K soil test to get you started as a first step. 

We trust and recommend two soil testing companies. One we’ve known for almost as long as we’ve been in business and the other we found during our soil workshop a couple of years ago.

The first is Crop Services International (CSI), based outside Kalamazoo, MI. They are one of the most helpful companies, freely sharing a lot of information and advice about soil fertility and testing. I met Dr. Phil Wheeler at a grower conference, and he never hesitated to answer my surface question and showed me the deeper basis of the question, answering that as well.  

Their complete soil test is an excellent price. It includes a detailed explanation of the test and the following steps to improve it with mineral balance, biological supports, and fertility amendments. See their recommendations page for details. This is an excellent test for the foundational nutrients, organic matter, and water-soluble nutrients. 

EarthFort is the second testing company, based in Corvallis, OR, and is the preferred testing company of Nicole Masters, author of For the Love of Soil. They focus more on soil life—fungi, bacteria, biological carbon, and nitrogen. 

They also test compost, which is not usually available for home gardeners or small-scale growers. 

EarthFort also maintains a Compost Referral List of sources they’ve tested that might be more local to you than buying from a larger company. 

If you are just getting started testing your soil, we recommend using CSI to get your foundational nutrients right and build the home for the biology so they can move in and increase your soil fertility.

On the other hand, if you have a good foundation with darker soil and a good soil organism population but want to take it up a notch, contact EarthFort.