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buying compost?

I think I herd something about being able to buy compost. Does anyone know if this is true? I'm wanting to do a large tomatoe garden but don't have a compost going this winter. any advise?

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ID jit
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Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Past several weeks I have been doing a lot of web research on container mixes, soils and bagged compost.
(I need to generate about 70 - 75 gallons of container mix this spring.)

The bulk of what I read is that bagged anything is sort of unpredictable as to quality, regardless of price. Certain brands, mostly the more expensive organic stuff seem to be the most consistent and predictable in quality.

Some comunities have recycle programs which may include composted yard waste, etc collected from the town, but I believe this is a rare thing, but worth a call to the town offices.

I do know I resurected an abused garden once with way too many bags of "composted cow manure" from a box store and did a lot of rototilling. Turned out fairly well, all things considered.

Something you may want to consider is just starting a compost pile know, even if it is really cold where you are and even if you are just working with kitchen scrapes and shreaded paper and card board. It may not kick start itself till spring, but you could get lucky. Either way having it ready to come to life when it warms up is one less chore for spring.
Last edited by ID jit on Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M(11/B)

"don't have a compost going this winter"

...but... it's only December, and in Michigan I should think you won't be planting tomatoes until mid-May at earliest?

Do you have a place where you could set up several piles? Pallets and/or wire fencing and fence posts, straw bales for insulation....

Are you willing to collect materials -- past prime produce from grocery stores, kitchen scraps and coffee grounds from from restaurants, coffee houses, diners, etc. Cardboard boxes and shredded office paper, past date newspapers from just about anywhere, some places offer free of low cost clean saw dust and wood shavings. Then of course you could also shovel up manure if not from manure piles which might be frozen already, but you could offer to clean stables and barns? Spoiled straw and hay....

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matt6977 wrote:I think I herd something about being able to buy compost. Does anyone know if this is true? I'm wanting to do a large tomatoe garden but don't have a compost going this winter. any advise?

Go to all the garden centers and landscape companies and ask what they use. You'll find that they buy compost and garden soil to use for the jobs in bulk much cheaper than a plastic bag from the store. Just ask questions about where it came from, what it's made of and does the manure have antibiotics or steroids in it. They'll probably lie but just be diligent and do research. It really comes down to what you're safe using.

And that hopefully answers your question, don't buy anything from a big box store unless you have money to burn on other fertilizers to make it worthwhile.

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Location: Hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Composts do vary in quality.
Greenwaste facilities are pretty common now since many communities have started curbside recycling to divert greenwaste from land fills. The problem is more that you don't know what home owners are putting in the cans. My greenwaste recycler does publish the compost analysis and does germination tests. I prefer not to use to much of it because it has a pH 8.3 and only one plot is acidic. If homeowners use pesticides the composting process usually takes care of most of that, but certain classes of herbicides may persist and you may have to let the compost sit longer.

If you have the space you can usually get free tree trimmings from local tree trimmers. Just make sure, they have chipped it fine and don't accept weed trimmings, or roots. If you let that compost you will have enough for the garden next year. You can also start a pile now.

I usually use multiple sources for compost since a variety of sources is better. I tailor my compost to the needs of my garden. The local compost from greenwaste has a pH 8.3 (it was 7.8,) so I can't use it on the alkaline plots. I use pine needles, and peat moss instead and only steer manure on those plots. The acidic plot can handle it. I do use measured quantities of sulfate of ammonia for my main source of nitrogen. I till in plant residues to add biomass. There is enough nitrogen for the decomposing matter and the growing plants.

Plant a green manure to over winter and till in for biomass. It is an easy way to compost and mop up excess nutrients.

I would also recommend getting a soil test and request organic recommendations and repeat every few years to keep things on track.

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I am lucky enough to have a horse ranch right behind my back yard. But even without that, if you find stables, they will generally have piles of old horse manure mixed with straw bedding sitting around aging. If you are willing to shovel it up and have a truck to haul it, you can have all you want free. This is a good time to put it down on your gardens, it will be well broken down by spring. You can also use it as basis for compost piles.

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The Omaha area has a composting facility and produce "Omagro". They sell by the bag or the truckload. I have used this product and it is top notch. As stated many communities are getting into the compost program.

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Definitely start a compost pile now, with your kitchen scraps. If you have some leaves, layer them over those each time you add some to the pile. If you're lazy, keep a 5-gal bucket with a lid next to the back door and dump them in that till it gets full, then add it to the pile.

As for purchased compost, store-bought is not necessarily junk. You kinda get what you pay for. My own tests of a couple dozen bagged products revealed that the cheapest was not the worst and the most expensive was not necessarily better than middle-of-the-road. Always examine the contents - find a torn bag. If it has a lot of soil or shredded wood, it may not be the best. If it smells manure-y, it's probably wet and will clear up when it's in the air awhile. Also, mix different brands and types because they will have different ingredients and slightly different composition in the final product.

Depending on how much you need, you might get it a lot cheaper in bulk. If you can find a place to buy it, borrow a pickup truck, that's the cheapest way. But make sure you inspect the product first!

Actually if you can find a farmer with a manure pile now, you could spread it on the surface and it will be ready to till in and plant in the spring, even if it's fresh now.

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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:32 am
Location: Hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

If you have a few months to go, you can also do trench composting. It takes about five months to be ready. If you can get wood chips from your utility company or tree trimmers that is sometimes free if they are in the area. You can save up your old leaves and twigs and chip them into small pieces for browns. Coffee, grounds, manure fresh green leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps as well as healthy cuttings from the yard can be used to make your compost. I add nitrogen as a starter. Dig a pit at least 18 inches deep. put everything in. Cover it up with soil, put some burlap bags or weed block if you don't have burlap and keep it moist. The sack and weed block is to help control the weeds. It will make a mound. Over the 5 months the mound will sink as everything decomposes.

To add biomass, you can plant buckwheat, rye, or crimsom clover as a cover crop and till it in when it flowers. Don't let it go to seed or it will be a weed in the garden. This will add biomass and you can plant after that. Add fertilizer as needed.

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