best compost for growing vegetables

The Best Compost for Vegetables [How to Find the Right Compost]

In order to maximize growth vegetables need a lot of nutrients.  Compost is a great organic matter that provides nutrients and minerals to growing vegetables.  Using compost to grow vegetables in, if you plan to grow vegetables in a container, in bags, or in your back yard is a quick and easy way to get started growing vegetables in a cost-effective way.  The choice of composts at the garden centre on online can sometimes be bewildering, so we’ve put this guide together to clearly explain what compost is, what the differences between composts are and how you can identify the best compost for vegetable growing.

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The Best Compost for Growing Vegetables

Type of CompostWhat It Looks LikeBest forRead Reviews & Buy Now!
Best Multi Purpose Compost• Grows plants twice as big (compared with ordinary garden soil)
• Feeds for up to six months
• Ideal for growing plants, fruit and vegetables
• Provides optimum balance of air and water for strong roots and healthier plants through the patented Fibre Smart technology with 100 percent natural hollow wood fibres
• Ideal for use in beds, borders, hanging baskets, pots and containers
Buy the best multi-purpose compost here.
Best Organic Compost• Key features Ideal for seed sowing, cuttings and propagation
• Certified seed compost 100% peat-free Insulation properties of coir
• Encourages quick germination and fast root growth
• Soil Association permitted product
• Contains certified organic coir
• Germination trials on every batch
• No green waste
Get prices for the best organic compost here
Best Peat Free Compost• 100% sustainable, natural & peat-free compost
• Specially blended for all types of plants
• Base fertiliser - Feeds plants for up to 6 weeks
• Ideal for seeds, containers, fruit & vegetables
• BIO3 formulation with No Green Waste
Buy the best peat free compost here
Best Mushroom Compost• This 100% soil conditioner actually adds humus and plant food to the soil.
• This benefit improves yields tremendously.
• The formula also works by breaking down the heavy clay and improving the capacity of light sandy soil.
• Made from 100% organic products your crops will have the best growing conditions
Buy the best mushroom compost here
Best Loam Based Compost• Brand: J Arthur Bower's
• Usage: Mature plants, patio areas and final re potting of tomatoes.
• Volume: 25L
• High nutrient formula
• Traditional loam based compost with limestone and grit sand
Buy the best loam based compost

What is compost?

Put very simply, compost is just organic matter that has partially decomposed.  You can either buy it or make your own.  For beginners to vegetable growing buying compost is simply the easiest and quickest way to get started growing vegetables.  It is possible to buy specific compost that contains particular minerals and nutrients that help specific vegetables to grow more vigorously.

Compost contains, in the main, four materials.

  • Moisture
  • Oxygen
  • Organic Matter
  • Bacteria

There are many types of organic matter than can be used in compost – kitchen scraps, leaves, sawdust, weeds, hay and shredded newspaper are just some of the materials that can be used to make compost.  However, creating your own compost heap takes time and commitment, it can take 4 months or longer for compost to be ready to be used in the growing of vegetables.  If you want to read more about making a compost heap, try this article.  Or, to mke it easier on yourself get a compost bin – our guide takes you through the different types to find the best compost bin for you.  If you want to buy the best compost for vegetables without making your own compost heap then read on!

What are the different types of compost for vegetables?

In the main, there are five different sorts of compost that you can use to grow vegetables  Each of the different types of compost will have their main ingredients labelled, and each different type of compost can be used for specific purposes.  Here’s our overview of the different types of compost for vegetable gardens.

Best multi-purpose compost for vegetables

You can use multi-purpose compost for anything.  This is usually the best value compost.  Use the best multipurpose compost to fill vegetable growing pots or containers, or to add to soil levels in your garden beds.  Some multi-purpose compost is specifically designed to reduce the amount of watering that is needed by absorbing water and then releasing it over a period of time.  Some multi-purpose composts will contain additional plant foods that will slow-release food to your vegetables over a period of time, sometimes up to 6 months. > Here’s the best multi-purpose compost – buy it now and get started!

Best Organic Compost for vegetables

Organic compost is created from a mixture of materials which might include wood fibres and bark.  The best organic compost to buy is usually enriched with natural nutrients from both plants and animals.  You can buy the best organic compost options for delivery here.  If you want to ensure that your organic vegetable compost is truly organic, then you’ll want to find certified organic compost by the Organic Farmers and Growers Association. The Soil Association in the UK also certifies compost and soil as organic.

The best organic compost for vegetable gardens is usually the most expensive in the garden centre or online store.   One of the best ways to ensure the best organic soil for vegetables is to make your own compost – check out our compost bin suggestions here.

organic compost for vegetables

Photo Source:  By Sebastian Ballard, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13792295

Best peat based compost for vegetables

Compost that was soil-free always used to be made of peat, however, increased requirements for this led to the stripping of wildlife habitats for peat.  It’s not particularly environmentally friendly.  While you can still find peat-based compost, it now contains a reduced amount of peat.  Peat based compost contains other materials including fertilizer, sand, grit and other items. Buy the best compost mix for vegetables here.

Best Peat Free compost for vegetables

Peat free compost is quite literally that.  Compost that is made from base ingredients that do not include peat.  These can be bark, green materials and wood fibre.  Peat free compost usually also contains specifically added materials, depending on the proscribed use for the compost.  So peat-free vegetable compost will include slow-release plant food designed especially for growing vegetables. > Buy the best peat-free composts here.

Best loam-based compost for vegetables

Compost that is loam based tends to be soil-based and is made with a mix of materials that include peat, loam and sand or grit.  Depending on the different loam-based compost will depend on the added nutrients   Loam based compost tends to dry out less than other composts and is one of the best compost mixes for vegetables. > Buy the best loam based compost here.

best compost for vegetables

Best Mushroom Compost for growing vegetables

Mushroom compost was originally made with well rotted manure from stables (so manure and straw), now its made with composted straw.  It tends to be alkaline – so don’t use it on acidic loving plants.  Is mushroom compost good for a vegetable garden? Well, as mushroom compost is very high in organic matter so it is very good for improving soil and growing vegetables.  It usually comes from left over compost from mushroom farming.  Buy the best mushroom compost for vegetable gardens here.

What are the differences between the types of compost?

The primary differences between different types of compost that you can buy are

  • The base materials
  • Whether the compost is organic or not
  • Which nutrients have been added to the compost
  • Whether the compost includes peat or not

What’s the difference between compost and manure?

Manure is organic matter and mainly consists of animal faeces.  Manure is NOT compost.  Manure on its own is not suitable for growing vegetables and is most definitely not suitable for growing vegetables in pots.  In order to use manure in vegetable growing it needs to be well rotted.  Fresh manure directly from animals is not recommended at all for vegetable growing.  Manure can, unless properly rotted and used can transfer disease.

Manure can be added to a compost heap or it can be added to a food garden 3-4 months prior to planting in order to help prepare the ground.  If you are a beginner vegetable gardener, then we recommend you read up on the use of manure in the preparation of ground and compost, but that in the short to medium term, you use prepared compost, there is plenty of choices.

What’s the difference between a grow bag and compost?

A grow bag is simply a decent quality compost with nutrients added.  Grow bags use good quality composts in thick large bags.  Grow bags are an excellent way to get started growing vegetables and are the perfect solution if you’re just getting started.  Using grow bags to grow vegetables can save you money as it means that you don’t need to buy additional pots and containers.  Stinting on good compost is not something we recommend.

What is the best compost for vegetables?

Vegetables need a lot of nutrients to grow to their best potential and taste.   Most beginner vegetable gardeners will not have soil in their garden that contains all the required nutrients for the best results.  All the easy vegetables that we recommend to grow here can be grown in compost.  Buying compost specific to vegetables includes nutrients that will give your vegetables the best chance of success.

Standard compost contains some nutrients, and you can also add specific nutrients that you purchase separately to aid your vegetable growing endeavour.  However, its also possible to buy specific composts designed for the vegetables that you are planning to grow.  Here are a few examples of the best veg composts

What is in compost for vegetables?

Compost that is specifically designed for growing vegetables contains specific organic matter and nutrients that are designed to support the vegetable plants.

Well rotted compost created naturally contains the primary plant nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  Compost that you buy will include these nutrients in different amounts but also in a way that is designed to release the nutrients over a period of time.

Tomatoes grow well in multi-purpose compost, but also require lots of water, so compost that does not dry out is best.  Nitrogen-rich composts will also help tomatoes.  When tomatoes are fruiting you should check the dryness of the compost at least twice a day.  If you start tomatoes off inside you can move them and other vegetables outside in May.

Where to buy the best compost for growing vegetables

You can buy compost for growing vegetables from any garden centre or store that sells compost.   The best bagged compost for vegetable gardens have some great brand names such as John Innes, or own-brand versions.  We’d recommend ordering your compost online and getting it delivered to save on shopping trips – and, to be honest, compost bags and grow bags are heavy and a pain to transport.  Here are our recommendations for the best compost for growing vegetables online.

Why do I need compost for growing vegetables?

Using compost in either grow bags or in containers is quite simply the quickest and easiest way to get started growing vegetables.  You can ensure that the compost includes all the required nutrients to make your vegetable plants grow to their best ability and taste.  Using regular soil from your garden simply doesn’t contain the nutrients that vegetables need for proper growth and taste.  You can use soil from your garden, but you’ll need to either pretreat it with compost and manure (4 months before you want to use it) or add nutrients to it in order to get the best results.

It’s much quicker and more effective to use tried and tested composts that will increase your success rate in growing vegetables.

Which Compost is best for Vegetables FAQs

Here are the most asked questions about what compost for vegetables is the best to use .  Got a question about what is the best compost for growing vegetables?  Use the comments or email us and we’ll add your question and the answer to our best compost to use for vegetable gardens frequently asked questions!

Is compost good for vegetable gardens?

Yes.  Compost is well rotted organic matter and improves soil conditions and growing conditions for vegetables.  

Can you use compost for growing vegetables?

Yes, absolutely you can use compost for growing vegetables.  If you are buying compost then it will come complete with many of the nutrients that are needed for growing vegetables especially in your first use of it.  You may need to add nutrients in future uses.

What compost is best for vegetable gardens?

I’d say that the best vegetable garden compost is one that you’ve made yourself, whether thats in a compost heap or a compost bin (see our guide to compost bins here) .  However, if you’re just starting out that’s a little difficult.   A good compost for vegetable gardens is a good quality multi-purpose compost – like this one Miracle Gro Compost.

What is organic compost?

While compost by nature is usually organic (its made of organic broken down  matter), truly organic compost is made from matter which has been grown organically and not treated with fertilizers that are not organix, herbicide, fungicide, pesticide or any chemicals.  

Can you grow vegetables in compost?

Yes.  We’ve been growing vegetables in compost for years.  When we first started growing vegetables we had only a small backyard and containers, no soil we had access to, so we had to buy the best compost for containers.  It worked really well.   That first year we grew more than 400 tomatoes (and a whole heap of other vegetables!). 

Do you need compost to grow vegetables?

If you are growing vegetables in containers or pots then using the best vegetable compost to grow them in will give you great results. you don’t need compost to grow vegetables, you can use soil from the garden, but to achieve the best results you will want to use some fertilizer. However, you can also grow vegetables in water WITHOUT compost or soil – read our hydroponics start kit guide here for more information.

Can I use manure instead of compost for vegetables?

Yes and No. If you are using manure to fertilize your garden, then it will need to be well rotted and dug into the soil. You should NOT use raw manure on your vegetables. You cannot plant vegetables in manure.

Can you use grow bags as compost?

Yes.  Grow bags are essentially just long bags full of compost.  So, if you are growing veg in grow bags, then you’re growing it in compost.  Some of the cheaper grow bags that you might pick up outside discount stores might not be the best quality compost, but it is still compost in there. 

What is loam based compost?

Loam compost has a specific technical compostion to it.  Loam based compost is made of less than 52% sand, anywhere between 7% and 27% clay and between 28% and 50% silt.   It holds moisture well, 

Can I use multi purpose compost for vegetables?

Yes.  Multi-purpose compost for veg growing is a great option, its very flexible and comes with good nutrients for veggie growing.

What is the best compost for vegetables in pots?

When it comes to which is the best compost for vegetables UK availability, we’d have to go with the best multi purpose compost, its flexible and hard to go wrong with.  If you are in an area where your compost dries quickly (lots of sun, wind etc), then try a loam-based compost.

What’s the best compost to buy?

When it comes to answering the question what is the best compost to buy, you can’t go far wrong with multi-purpose compost.    This also tends to be the best buy compost.  

Can I use mushroom compost in my vegetable garden?

Yes.  Mushroom compost is high in organic matter and an excellent way of improving your vegetable garden.

Final words on the best compost to buy for vegetable gardens

If you’re starting out in your vegetable growing adventure, then using existing containers, or simply selecting compost grow bags is a great and cheap way of getting started.  (Read more about the best vegetables to grow to save money here.)  We hope that this overview on the best vegetable growing compost has been useful and that it helps with your vegetable growing journey!

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