Tips & Tricks

Buyers guide to compost

By now you know that a good compost will make your soil & garden healthier and more resilient but how do you find a good product if you don't have the time or space to make your own? The good news is there are options that will get your garden in great shape for the next season that are available locally.

Garden centers (or local organic nurseries like us) will carry compost that you can purchase.

Many cities have programs that also offer free compost for residents. For example here are some options for San FranciscoMarin County.

But not all compost is created equally, so here's a few tips that will help you find the best one for your garden.

Choosing great compost

  1.  Avoid plastic bags - the plastic makes the microbial ecosystem die off more quickly
  2.  Fresh is best - for the same reasons as above - the longer compost is kept in a bag, the less beneficial ecosystem it will bring to your soil
  3.  Nutrition matters - compost on its own will not have high levels of macro nutrients for plants. Macro nutrients are NPK ((Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) and will be listed most commonly on fertilizers. Compost mixed with manures, kelp or fish will provide the best of both worlds
  4.  Ask about the source - if you are growing your own food, there is no reason to have questionable or tainted compost added to your soil. 

Now that you've found a good supply of compost, how much do you need?

Our recommendation from the Avalow Test Garden show that a 1.5 inch layer at the beginning of each season is the perfect amount for use with our self-watering system. If you're planting in ground or in containers that will be watered from above, add another 1 inch. 

To break that down into cubic yards or number of bags, there are several online calculators that come in handy.

Adding to your garden - no mixing needed

The last step is getting your compost into the garden. We recommend "top-dressing" or just adding the layer of compost to the top of your existing soil. Clip any plants you want to remove at the base and leave the existing roots in the soil and apply around the base of plants that you want to keep. There is no need to "mix" the compost in - the nutrients will flow down into the soil with watering and as you plant through the fresh layer of compost.

Your local supplier - Avalow

We carry the compost that has worked the best at our Test Garden. It's so good that we add it to every garden we install and is what we measure other composts that we test against. It's a mix of mushroom soil and organic manure for a potent blend of good microbes, mycorrhizae and macro nutrients that will supercharge your season. We offer compost in common sizes (2 square feet, 10 sf, 20 sf) so you don't have to worry about doing the math.