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Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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How Much Do You Pay for Compost

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Post  rabbithutch 2/23/2014, 1:28 pm

Assuming that you don't (yet) have a compost pile producing for you, how much does one have to pay for compost? 

In trying to determine the quantities needed for peat, vermiculite, and compost, an Excel spreadsheet was created into which the inside dimensions (length, width, depth) of beds are entered and measures of cubic volume are calculated - cubic inches, cubic feet.  It then divides the cubic feet by 3 to give the volume of each component of MM for each bed.  [NOTEBecause it is a convenient measure, the number of cubic feet required for each bed is divided by a constant of 0.668 (the cubic feet in a 5-gallon bucket) to determine the number buckets of each component I need for the mix for each bed.]

By summing the values, the volumes of peat, vermiculite and compost are calculated.  Entering the cubic volume per package of each component and the price per package, the spreadsheet calculates the costs and totals them.

Now you know why I was interested in knowing how much one must pay for compost.  I found pricing for 4 cubic foot bales of peat and for 3 cubic foot bags of vermiculite, but I have no clue what the compost will cost.  I used a 40-quart bag for compost and guessed at a price of $12.00 per bag - these are all swags.

If someone can tell me how to post it, I will gladly share the spreadsheet.
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Post  yolos 2/23/2014, 1:35 pm

The cost of compost varies too much by location and by type and time of year purchased.  For instance, last spring I bought Black Kow cow compost at Home Depot for 3.99 per bag (which is about one 5 gallon container) and earth worm castings for about 15.00.
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Post  rabbithutch 2/23/2014, 1:43 pm

yolos wrote:The cost of compost varies too much by location and by type and time of year purchased.  For instance, last spring I bought Black Kow cow compost at Home Depot for 3.99 per bag (which is about one 5 gallon container) and earth worm castings for about 15.00.
 
Yes, costs are variable depending on what one buys and where that's why I designed the spreadsheet to allow those variables to be entered.  I asked the question simply to get a rough idea.  The spreadsheet can easily be modified to provide for the 5 composts that are needed for MM.

I'm aware that there is already a calculator and a database for vermiculite sources.  Both are good and valuable tools as far as they go.  I found that the MM calculator was not quite robust enough to give me the answers I was looking for.
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Post  rabbithutch 2/23/2014, 2:04 pm

Here is a screenshot of my spreadsheet.

How Much Do You Pay for Compost Mm_cal10

The tan-colored cells are where on enters values.  Yellow cells are calculated results and green cells are calculated costs.  Constants for cubic inches in a cubic foot and cubic feet in a 5-gallon bucket were used along with input values to make the calculations (assuming I don't have errors that I didn't find).  The 5-gallon bucket calculation was done to facilitate mixing components.  I assumed that compost would be purchased in 40-quart bags but that is a swag.  The costs per unit of purchase are estimates I pulled out of the air; so PLEASE DO NOT RELY ON THIS EXAMPLE.

As I said in the OP, I'll be glad to share this spreadsheet if someone can tell me how to post it.  The calculations could easily be converted to metric.  If anyone is interested, please let me know.


Last edited by rabbithutch on 2/23/2014, 2:12 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : corrections)
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Post  Marc Iverson 2/23/2014, 10:09 pm

Boy, the price varies so widely store by store and brand by brand and sale by sale and type by type ...

One nice thing for fall/winter gardeners is it sometimes goes on sale toward the end of summer, even at clearance prices. I got a lot of mulch really cheaply that way, for instance, and the occasional bag of compost, too.

Bagged compost may have dried out and lost a good deal of its bacterial and fungal activity by that time, especially if it was a sealed bag laid out in the sun as it is in so many stores. And if you're only interested in summer crops, late-season compost may not seem all that attractive. But in a bag that hasn't had water running through it, the nitrogen, carbon, and minerals won't be going anywhere, so they should still serve as well as ever.
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Post  Goosegirl 2/24/2014, 7:03 am

Marc Iverson wrote:Boy, the price varies so widely store by store and brand by brand and sale by sale and type by type ...

One nice thing for fall/winter gardeners is it sometimes goes on sale toward the end of summer, even at clearance prices.  I got a lot of mulch really cheaply that way, for instance, and the occasional bag of compost, too.

Bagged compost may have dried out and lost a good deal of its bacterial and fungal activity by that time, especially if it was a sealed bag laid out in the sun as it is in so many stores.  And if you're only interested in summer crops, late-season compost may not seem all that attractive.  But in a bag that hasn't had water running through it, the nitrogen, carbon, and minerals won't be going anywhere, so they should still serve as well as ever.

+1

Another good thing about the cheap end-of-the-season stuff is that you can always just add it to your own compost bin with some extra goodies from home to perk it up a bit over winter and it will be ready to go in spring.  Unfortunately I missed my chance at work.  Our store had it down to $0.69/bag (90% off) at the end of the season and before I could get my old truck running, a guy came with a flatbed trailer and bought it ALL - 80+ bags!  

GG

PS - in my area I cannot rely on commercial compost alone, since there is usually only 1, MAYBE 2 brands available - and sometimes the are both the same type (cow).  Thankfully I have my home compost bin and live in an area with several kinds of ranches.  Within 15 miles any direction I can find free manure:  horse, cow, sheep, goat, chicken, and llama.  Working on a rabbit source.  FREE IS ALWAYS BEST!!!   Very Happy
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Post  jimmy cee 2/24/2014, 8:53 am

Last season (1st SFG ) I had to pick up compost at our local recycle center.
Manager told me it was mainly leaves and brush, knowing this I added a few organic items, screened it and had a very successful planting last year.
I have 2 compost piles working, however I'll still get some recycled stuff.
Don't discount your local services.
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Post  rabbithutch 2/24/2014, 5:16 pm

Just as a follow up, I was aware that my question might be met with the, "How long is a piece of string?" response - and rightly so.

Mostly what I intended the post for was to generate discussion about sources and costs of store-bought composts.  I also wanted to provoke some discussion about the relative costs of MM components.  And, I wanted to offer the spreadsheet model I built up for consideration and critique.

What I should realize is that most folks here have made their MM so long ago that the issues that seem so daunting to me right now are no longer on their minds.

FWIW, today I bought coarse vermiculite for $28 per 4 cft. bag and sphagnum peat bales for $11 per 3 cft. bale and Black Kow composted cow manure for $5 per 40-lb. bag (not yet sure what the volume will turn out to be).  I was surprised to find the vermiculite for a price that low and disappointed to have to pay so much for Black Kow.  Later this week I plan to get seasoned sheep manure from a local stockman and have a lead on some rabbit manure and maybe even some worm castings.

Again, my post was to generate discussion by more experienced SFG'rs for the benefit of us newbies. 

If anyone is interested, PM me with particulars and I'll send the spreadsheet model to you.

 How Much Do You Pay for Compost 3170584802
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Post  Pitch 2/24/2014, 5:58 pm

I purchased 3 yards of bulk cow compost (fine mix) for $20.00 a yard this past weekend which is 81 cubic feet (approx 5000 lbs).  I will add my own compost to this mix plus other ingredients...so, all in all very reasonable.  The company is actually in the process of moving their business to a new location so they have everything priced with large discounts so they don't have to move it...If anyone is in the OKC area, it is Minick Supply in Norman...they also have some compost that was accidentally contaminated with small rock for $10.00 a yard...
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Post  jimmy cee 2/24/2014, 6:24 pm

Pitch wrote:...they also have some compost that was accidentally contaminated with small rock for $10.00 a yard...
If there is anything I love better than composting, it's screening compost that I got for $10.00 per yard...wow
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Post  sanderson 2/24/2014, 7:38 pm

Rabbit, I've been Gardening (and only SFG) for 12 months. There are quite a few Newbies on the site that well remember how expensive the ingredients are to begin with! And, how hard it can be to locate them! I had to make 18 more squares this spring and thank goodness my husband bought the last torn-and-taped bag left at Home Depot, because I couldn't find anymore after that. Apparently, the stores haven't put in their orders.
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Post  camprn 2/24/2014, 8:55 pm

I cannot remember exactly but I think when I started my SFG with four 4x4 beds it cost around $300. I used perlite and I found a few sources of locally produced compost, a dairy farm and a farmer who keeps llamas. The cost has decreased significantly over the years as I make most of my compost. I do buy a bag of lobster compost ($7) each spring for each bed and every other year I end up buying a large bag of dried blood ($40) and BM8 ($25). Plus seeds. The cost listed is approximate. This year I will probably need to buy new lumber.  Rolling Eyes

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Post  yolos 2/24/2014, 9:43 pm

My first 4 x 4 cost $103 to build and the Mels Mix.  Approximately $80 for the Mels Mix ingredients.  I used some expensive Vermiculite and also some worm castings which drove the price up.  Now I have my own compost and have found a cheaper supply of vermiculite.  But now I also prefer not to keep track of the cost of a new bed.  I get so much pleasure from working with and planting in the Mels Mix that I don't worry about the cost.  Sure beats growing in hard red Georgia clay.
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Post  jimmy cee 2/24/2014, 9:55 pm

Dont forget those tiny country farm shops that sell to far out farmers.
I found on 15 miles from me, I can order 4 cubic bags of vermiculite for $21.00 a bag.
Usually here in a few days, in town I can order it for $38.00 a bag.
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Post  R&R 1011 2/24/2014, 11:50 pm

For compost, I will pay up to $3 per 1.5 cub ft bag of zoo doo and barn doo.  Its cheaper to buy by cubic yard, but I dont have a truck.  Its already made up of 5 different sources so I dont have to run all over town.

I have big SFG beds, so my start up costs are pricey.  Vermiculite here is $20/ 4 cub ft bag and peat at Lowes is $11 for 3.8 cub ft.  Wood, cedar 12' x 6" x 1", is about $10-$12.

I have a compost bin going, but only doing this for a year, I dont have enough for all the beds Ill be adding this year.  After this year, my gardening should be free.  

 How Much Do You Pay for Compost 3170584802
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Post  JoleneMarie 3/13/2014, 3:44 am

I haven't been able to find much in this small town. So far my choices are: Vermiculite $39/4cf. Peat moss: $12/3cf.

For compost all I can find is composted chicken manure $7/1cf. Black Kow Manure $3-$5. And 100% composted  cotton burrs $?/?cf. This is my first year doing SFG and it's difficult to locate Mel's Mix ingredients here in small town.

Wood: I'm using pine for the border $9 for 2"x6"x16' We decided to put a bottom on for  $20(only sold in 4'x4' pieces. Lattice is $0.69/LF for a total of $16 for 24ft.
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Post  Marc Iverson 3/14/2014, 12:50 am

Craigslist can be a godsend for composts and manures. Some rural counties have composting centers too, where you might get a whole truck bed full of manure for like 50 bucks. That's what my neighbor does, and he's a very successful gardener. Tree-trimming services and such drop their stuff there en masse, and it gets composted and sold to the public. You might get lucky that way.
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Post  68carguy 3/18/2014, 9:34 pm

I found Rabbit manure but it is uncomposted $ 10.00 a big bag around 50 # per bag. I bought 200 Lbs. Question: I have read that it can be used as is, but have also heard not to use it on the salad green crops. So what is one to do??
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Post  Goosegirl 3/18/2014, 10:41 pm

My thoughts (for what little they are worth) are that the hesitance to use the rabbit pellets fresh on the leafy greens would have to do with possible contamination issues from fresh feces on the edible parts of the plant.  They would not hurt the growth any, but you would need to make sure that you carefully wash your lettuce and greens as one would when eating in a foreign country (the bleach water soak).

GG
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Post  68carguy 3/19/2014, 5:22 pm

Thanks Goosegirl,
That is what I was thinking also. Maybe I will use some uncomposted on other crops besides leaf type, and compost the rest of the poo.
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