gardening for beginners
Organic Gardening

Where to Buy Compost: The 5 Best Ideas

If you’re an avid homesteader or gardener, then you understand how important compost is for improving soil health, enhancing crop yields and producing healthier plants. To help make your decision easier, I’ve put together a list of 5 great ideas on where to buy quality compost.

If you’re an avid homesteader or gardener, then you understand how important compost is for improving soil health, enhancing crop yields and producing healthier plants. With so many different sources of compost out there, it can be difficult to figure out where to buy the most desirable kind. To help make your decision easier, I’ve put together a list of 5 great ideas on where to buy quality compost — from buying bulk loads at garden centers and local suppliers to creating homemade piles or harvesting worm castings. I’ve also included some FREE options, but what you need to look out for if you choose those options. I’ll dive into the details about each one so that you can find what works best for your needs!

[RELATED POST: The 5 Best Composts for the Garden]

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Where to Buy Compost

Finding where to buy compost isn’t an impossible task. In fact, you’ll have plenty of options depending on where you live. It’s not some obscure resource so let’s take a look at the options.

Big Box Stores

I’ve included big box stores because those will most likely be widely available to you. Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes carry a variety of composts, so they’re definitely a great first stop. They carry conventional (non-organic) composts and organic composts – whichever suits your gardening needs.

Commonly Found Composts at Home Depot and Lowes

Local Nursery

If buying from a big box store isn’t your thing, check out your local nurseries. Most nurseries carry all sorts of products, including soil and compost. What types of compost are carried will vary from nursery to nursery. You can find out which nurseries are in your area by doing a simple search in Google. Search ‘local nurseries near me’ and the search provides results that are closest to you. 

Note: You may pay higher costs at a local nursery. 

Local Farms

Local farms are a great resource for composting materials. And they may be filled to the brim with manure that’s available. Check online for local farms and then call to see what they have available. In Google, type in ‘local farms’.

See if your state has a farm directory too. In New Jersey where I’m based there’s the New Jersey Farm Bureau . Try searching for local farmers’ markets as well. Although you may not be able to get composting materials at farmer’s markets, you may be able to meet some of the farmers and ask them questions.

Local Landfill

Although I don’t recommend this option, I’m going to include it anyway. From the landfill you can get things like free mulch and compost.  At the landfill  there are drop offs from the local community and tree companies. While the word ‘free’ may be appealing, there are reasons why you may want to thoroughly think about it before deciding this is the best option. 

In spite of some people having success stories with materials from their local landfill or recycling center, there are others who haven’t had a very good experience with it.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. The material you get from the county may not be the healthiest choice from the garden. You never know what you’re going to get. There could be diseased plant material included, pests, and I’ve even seen gardeners talk about finding pieces of glass.
  2. There may be herbicides and pesticides.
    1. One person speaking about their experience was that the local landfill accepted material that was treated with Clopyralid, which is a type of herbicide. It’s a chemical that’s used to kill weeds such as clover, thistle, and other hard to kill weeds. However, these types of chemicals don’t single out just the weeds. The person proceeded to explain that he used the treated material in the garden and nothing that was planted survived. 
    2. Another thing to keep in mind is that some of these chemicals that are used don’t easily break down. Clopyralid for instance is a very persistent chemical. It can last up to as long as 14 months. 

I steer clear of anything coming from the landfill even though it’s free because I worry about introducing something that will have a negative impact on my garden.

Local Zoo

Not everyone will have access to a local zoo, but in case you do, this may be an option for you. It’s probably a very unlikely place that you’d consider to get compost from. But if you think about it, there are plenty of herbivores at the zoo, like elephants, who drop “nuggets” of gold. Some zoos adopted composting programs so call them and check it out.

As a side note, there’s even a company that bags up zoo poo, called Silver Creek Materials.

Zoo Poo is a 100% organic herbivore compost. To obtain this prized possession, Silver Creek Materials partnered with the Dallas Zoo in an effort to reduce waste in local landfills and to support conservation efforts. Their goal is to divert 90% of the waste from the landfills to achieve “zero waste” at the zoo. In 2021, Silver Creek Materials diverted over a million pounds of waste and doubled that in 2022.

Where to Buy Compost in Bulk

Depending on the size of area you need to cover, you may want to consider buying compost in bulk. For smaller gardens, bagged compost is a good option. However, for larger gardens, bagged compost is pricey. To put it in perspective, a 40 pound bag of compost covers .75 cubic feet.

 To save money consider buying in bulk. There are bulk options at:

  • Big box stores
  • Local nurseries
  • Topsoil and mulch suppliers

Since each location is different check for the following:

  • What’s the minimum amount to order?
    • In the US we refer to the amount in cubic yards. So for example, Home Depot offers bulk orders in 5 cubic yards.
  • Ask where the compost is sourced from.
  • Is it just compost or is it mixed with soil?
  • What are the ingredients of the compost?
  • Is the compost organic?

Free Compost Near Me

Local farms and local landfills offer free ways to get compost. Check for local programs in your city or town that give away free compost to residents.

For example, the Town of Islip in Suffolk County, NY offers free compost at the MacArthur Compost Facility. The facility accepts yard waste like grass, leaves, tree and brush material. They then compost the material and offer it for free to all Islip residents. 

Other ideas for free compost (ideal to make your own compost):

  • Local coffee shops
  • Local grocery stores
  • Neighbors and friends
  • Community gardens (although they most likely use the compost for the community garden there may be extra left over that they give away)

Make Your Own Compost

Not everyone has the space or the desire to make their own compost. But making your own compost is still an option. As mentioned above, you can check with local coffee shops, grocery stores, neighbors, and friends for composting material. 

DIY Compost Bin

Making your own composting bins are simple and you can even possibly make them for free. Consider re-using pallets to make your bins, which you can sometimes get for free either at local business or places like Facebook Marketplace.

Earth Machines

Check to see if your state, county, or town offers Earth Machines. My county offers Earth Machines, which is an 80 gallon compost bin that’s made from recycled plastic. The county’s program allows you the option to purchase a bin at a reduced price.


Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes carry a variety of composts, so they’re definitely a great first stop. Buying in bulk may be an option. Local nurseries are another option for finding quality compost. You may be able to buy in bulk at these locations. Another source for compost is local farms. Call ahead to see what type of materials they have available for purchase or for free. f you want to go the free route, check with your local landfill or recycling center. Keep in mind that there may be some risks associated with using materials from these places in your garden. Finally, you can make your own compost bin using recycled materials and find out if your state, county, or town have a compost bin for purchase at a discount. 

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