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Good, better, best: The right compost starter for your home

Making compost at home solves several gardening problems. It eliminates organic waste from the garden, landscape, and household without sending these materials to the landfill. It provides a steady source of nutrient-rich soil amendment. And, compost reduces the need for fertilizer, suppresses plant diseases, and encourages the growth of beneficial soil microbes throughout the garden.

But making high-quality compost requires the right mix of nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. And, enclosed bins and tumblers without access to soil may need extra time to become colonized by the microbes that convert waste into compost. This is where a compost starter can help.

Compost starters are designed to kick-start the process by inoculating hot compost bins with millions of hungry microbes. They immediately begin to gobble up waste, reproduce and generate heat that kills off plant disease spores and weed seeds within the mix. If you’re looking for a compost starter that will help cycle waste faster, keep bad smells away, and improve the quality of the compost, continue reading for our good, better, and best choices.

Good: GreenPig Compost Accelerator

If you want to boost the microbe count to start off a batch of compost, GreenPig Compost Accelerator is a good pick. It is loaded with aerobic bacteria cultures that begin working on contact. Just fill up a watering can with a gallon or two of freshwater, drop in one of the water-soluble packets, and soak the compost. One treatment reduces the compost processing time to just 30 days.

Each packet treats up to 9 cubic feet of compost. The 12 count package treats a total of up to 108 cubic feet. At only $12.61 on Amazon, this is one of the most cost-effective ways to start composting.

Better:

Jobe’s Organics Compost Starter

Jobe’s Organics Compost Starter is a better pick because it’s formulated with microbes from three different kingdoms and 4-4-2 organic fertilizer. Archaea, bacteria, and fungi each work at different temperatures for fast, efficient decomposition. The fertilizer charge ensures the pile heats quickly and the microbes colonize thoroughly. When the finished compost is used in the garden, the included endomycorrhizae (beneficial fungi) boost plant health by extending the reach of their roots and protecting them from diseases.

This product is ideal for starting compost piles. Just spread it directly onto the pile at a rate of 2 cups per cubic yard (27 cubic feet) of compost. The 4-pound bag will treat up to 8 cubic yards of compost. Only $15.71 on Amazon.

Best:

Gardener’s Supply Company Super Hot Compost Starter

Our best pick, Super Hot Compost Starter from Gardener’s Supply Company, gives new compost everything it needs to quickly convert garden waste into rich compost. It includes a proprietary blend of beneficial microbes for a fast breakdown of organic waste and a generous boost of nitrogen from organic sources to stimulate rapid colonization and fast heat-up. Use it in all kinds of composting systems.

The 7-pound bag treats up to 10 cubic feet of compost. Sprinkle it on liberally whenever you add new material and keep the pile moist and aerated for fast results. It sells for $24.95 at Gardener’s Supply Company.

These compost starters accelerate the decomposition of organic waste and improve the overall quality of the finished soil amendment. Use the compost in potted plants, in seed starting medium, as a booster for new trees and shrubs at planting time, as a mulch, and more. The added microbes and nutrients from the starter products improve garden soil wherever the compost is used, boosting the soil ecosystem and overall plant health. With any of these products, you won’t go wrong.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
Good better best: The best fertilizer for your azaleas
A bush of bright pink azaleas

Azaleas are a favorite shrub for many gardeners. They have beautiful flowers in a range of colors, and they’re the perfect size for most gardens, lawns, and walkway borders. If you have poor soil, or if you’re trying to grow bigger blooms, you may want to fertilize your azaleas. However, not every fertilizer is a good fit for azaleas. Azaleas are particular about their soil pH, so any fertilizer that changes the soil pH could do more harm than good. These three slow release or controlled release fertilizers, made just for azaleas, will keep your soil pH stable while providing the nutrients your azaleas need.
Good: Jobe's Azalea, Camellia, & Rhododendron Fertilizer Spikes
If you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-use fertilizer that gets the job done, then this fertilizer is a good choice for you. It contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium –– the essentials for plant growth –– with a balance of 9-8-7. The spikes are pre-proportioned, so you don’t have to measure out your fertilizer. The downside to that is that you have slightly less control over how much fertilizer you’re giving your plants. Each bag contains ten spikes, which, depending on the size of your plant, can be anywhere from ten to two and a half uses. Additionally, this product is well reviewed on Amazon, with over 700 reviews and an average star rating of 4.6 out of 5.

In short:

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Why a hori hori will be your best summer gardening buy
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When it comes to summer garden tools, the average person is used to packing a bag with their trowel, pruning shears, hoe, and cultivator (claw rake). But what if we told you there’s only one tool you’ll ever need? With a hori hori, summer gardening just got a lot easier (and a lot lighter!). You’ll find yourself doing everything with one tool that you used to do with four — and more!

What is a hori hori knife?
A hori hori is a popular Japanese gardening tool that can do the work of many. It’s roughly a foot long, has a slightly curved blade (one side of which is serrated) and comes to a point at the end. Many hori hori knives sport measurement marks on the blade, which is perfect for helping determine how deep you’re digging down when planting seeds, bulbs, and rhizomes! The name hori hori even lends itself to digging as it’s an onomatopoeia for the sound made when digging in soil.

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Good, better, best: Fertilizers to nourish your avocado trees
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Avocados are delicious, nutritious, and, in some cases, expensive. Having avocados fresh from your very own tree may seem like a dream. It can be a reality, though. Avocados can be a little tricky to grow, especially as they use up the nutrients naturally present in your soil. We’re here to break down the nutritional needs of avocado trees and, with the help of these three fertilizers, ensure anyone can have a lifetime supply of avocados.
What nutrients do avocado trees need?
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Avocado trees don’t grow deep roots, which is important to keep in mind when planting and fertilizing. Typically, fertilizer is worked into the top foot or so of soil and is spread out across that space. However, avocado trees only need the fertilizer in the top six inches of soil, so they will generally use less fertilizer than trees with deeper roots.
Good: Espoma Citrus-Tone Plant Food
This is a good, basic fertilizer that is nutritionally balanced for citrus trees, avocados, fruit trees, and nut trees. It contains all the nutrients and trace elements your avocado tree needs, including both nitrogen and zinc. The majority of Amazon reviews are positive, with gardeners reporting amazing results and super-healthy trees.

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