8 Places to Buy Compost or Get it For Free


Compost is a wonderful all-natural fertilizer and soil amendment that can help improve your garden’s health and fertility. Home composting is an easy way to create this resource, but it’s sometimes hard to produce enough for your needs. If you are looking for additional compost, here are a few places you can look. 

compost in wheelbarrow

8 Places to Find Extra Compost

  • Garden centers and nurseries. These retailers usually have bags of compost available, and they often sell it in bulk as well. The compost quality and price varies from store to store. 

  • Local composting facilities. If your municipality has a composting program, you can participate by donating your compostables and by purchasing ready-to-use compost.

  • Local farms and CSAs. Many farms have an abundant supply of manure or vegetable and plant waste that they compost and sell the excess. Talk to your local farmers the next time you visit the farmer’s market. Even if they don’t provide compost themselves, they probably know someone who does.

  • Community gardens and garden associations. If your neighborhood has a community garden, it probably is already composting. They may sell their excess, or you might be able to participate in their program to provide composting materials in exchange for already processed compost. Check with your local group to find out the requirements.

  • Landfills. Most landfills have a composting program or designated area. Turning excess vegetation, yard waste, and tree trimmings into compost helps landfill owners to keep these items from taking up valuable space, allowing them to operate more efficiently. It also reduces methane emissions and helps with overall landfill operations. This compost is often inexpensive or even free. 

  • Zoos. Large animals produce a lot of waste, and many zoos have composting programs to make the best use of the manure. Your local zoo may also have drop-offs for recyclable materials like holiday greenery and yard waste. These items are used to feed the animals, composted, or recycled in other ways.

  • Hardware stores & supercenters. Big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart sell compost by the bag. Although they’re easy to find, the selection can be limited, and the prices can be relatively high.

  • Online marketplaces. Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and other online classified listings are helpful resources for finding almost anything. You may be able to find a local worm vendor who has free earthworm castings.
raking garden soil

What to Look for When Buying Compost

When you buy compost, you want to make sure it’s good quality.  Good compost should be dark and fluffy, without any trash or chunks of unprocessed materials. It should be slightly moist, with enough water content to support the microorganisms present in the soil. It should not be overly wet or completely dry. 


Healthy compost will also have a good, earthy smell. That means it should have no hints of ammonia or sulfur when you sniff it. Those odors tell you that the compost isn’t finished or has a poor balance of nutrients. 


Avoid any compost that may have traces of persistent herbicides. Many vegetables will not be able to grow in soil that has been contaminated with these substances. These herbicides are often used on hay, straw, and feedstock. They are designed to persist, meaning they don’t break down well, even in composted manure from animals that have been fed the treated plants, so ask a few questions before you buy. 


Healthy compost is a great asset to your garden soil, but poor quality compost can cause a lot of damage.  You’ll be able to learn more about the composition and processes that went into making the compost when you buy locally instead of at big box stores.

wheelbarrow full of compost

Finding and Buying Compost

Rich, fertile soil is the foundation for a healthy garden. Adding compost is an excellent way to create optimal garden soil. With these 8 ways to buy compost, you can start building your home garden soil.

Written by Teresa Chandler

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