Difference Between Compost and Mulch & Why You Should know about it?

compost vs mulch

Growing your garden may be a great hobby. Whether you’re looking forward to eating fresh garden veggies or seeing your flowers blossom, you’ll spend a lot of time caring for your plants. Water and sun are two obvious elements that influence the growth of your garden.

Fertilizers like compost and manure are popular for gardening, we have done a detailed breakdown of those fertilizers. But, today we will look into Compost and mulch which are the two gardening fertilizers that are good for lawns and commonly interchanged, leading many people to believe they are similar things.

Even professional gardeners often confuse the terms compost and mulch or use the word mulch when referring to compost. This article will help you learn more about compost and mulch, their difference, etc.

What is Compost?

According to EPA, compost is nutrient-rich decomposed organic matter which can be used to enhance soil quality in agriculture, gardening, and farming, horticulture. If you are looking forward to increasing soil quality of your garden, peat moss is right there for you as a good alternative.

Compost, commonly known as “black gold,” is produced by mixing water with brown elements (such as dead leaves, twigs, and branches) and green products in a natural process (like grass clippings, fruit, and veggie scraps). When these components are mixed, the final process of biodegradation occurs spontaneously.

Whether you compost at home or your community undertakes large-scale or industrial composting, the final result is a remarkably valuable product with the help of several environmental, economic, and social merits. Compost is an incredible asset to any garden since it helps plants grow stronger and better by nourishing the soil. Over time, it eliminates pollutants from the soil, making the soil’s nutrients more accessible to the plants. Compost completes the natural soil cycle by putting the organic matter into the soil.

While purchasing compost for your garden, look for a dark-colored compost with an earthy scent and an equal texture. The compost should not have an unpleasant odor. You don’t want lumpy compost since it may include organic material that hasn’t fully decomposed and might deplete your plants’ nutrients. 

Compost is merged into the soil underneath the top layer. You may add a bit of compost to a hole while excavating your garden bed, then plant the flowers on top. Compost may also be placed adjacent to plants and then pushed into the soil to distribute it out more evenly.

What are the Benefits of Compost for your Lawn?

The following are the four major benefits:

  • Improve the soil – Good soil is required for beautiful grass. It’s not rocket science, but it’s the truth! Earthworms and ‘good’ insects, fungus, beneficial bacteria, and microorganisms that we can’t see can all be found in healthy soil.
  • Improve lawn color – Your compost heap provides amazing fertilizer as the organic matter breaks down. Adding a compost top dressing to your lawn will also result in greener grass because it is often rich in nitrogen and other nutrients.
  • Save water – Users may enhance their soil moisture retention while saving a few dollars by enhancing their soil structure. Organic matter-rich soil is less prone to compaction, allowing it to store more water.
  • Natural is best – Compost is a natural, environmentally beneficial fertilizer. This is essential since many of our lawns are frequented by children and animals. Healthy soil = Healthy grass.

What is Mulch?

Let’s start by defining mulchMulch is a layer of material utilized to cover exposed soil. There are various materials you may use for this, but in my opinion, the only ones you should use in your garden are those made of natural and biodegradable materials. Mulch is used to keep the soil wet, discourage weeds, keep the soil cool, avoid frost heaving in the winter, and improve the appearance of the garden bed. As the organic mulch decomposes, it improves the soil’s structure, drainage, and nutrient-holding capacity.

Mulch is any substance used to cover the soil’s surface. Gardeners receive the extra benefits of enhanced soil structure and increased nutrients when they use organic mulch, such as shredded leaves, shredded wood, or grass clippings, as it decomposes. Wood chips, pine bark, leaves, straw, and grass clippings are all examples of healthy mulch since they decompose and offer your soil several advantages.

But, along with its advantage mulch has a risk of soil erosion during heavy rain. Those who have mulch in their garden for keeping weeds away, they often look for solution on how to prevent mulch erosion so, it won’t damage their garden. One of the popular method to prevent soil erosion is raised bed gardening.

That would eliminate your worries about mulch erosion completely and help your soil to be healthy and fertile. In my opinion, natural materials that do not biodegrade or take decades to break down, such as stone or shells, don’t serve as helpful mulch. Rubber and plastic are examples of non-natural materials that are just poor ideas. In a moment, I’ll elaborate on it.

What are the Benefits of Laying Mulch in your Garden?

The following are the four major benefits of Mulch:

  • Keeps the weeds away – A layer of mulch applied on the top of the garden soil may be the most effective way to keep weeds out. A thick layer of mulch inhibits weed germination and development in your soil.
  • Regulates soil temperature – Mulch also aids in the regulation of soil temperature, ensuring that extreme temperature variations do not harm plants and trees. It may be useful in winter by protecting your soil and year-round plants.
  • Protects the soil from both nature and people – Mulch decomposes slowly, providing protection from the elements such as the sun’s drying heat, as well as heavy rains, keeping it from becoming overly compacted or eroding.
  • Holds in moisture and nutrients – Mulch helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients so the plants can absorb what they require, while organic mulch releases more nutrients into the soil.

What is the Difference Between Compost and Mulch?

DefinitionNutrient-rich soil amendment made from decomposed organic matterProtective layer of material applied on soil surface to conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature
CompositionContains organic matter such as food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and manureCan be made of a variety of materials including wood chips, straw, leaves, and grass clippings
PurposeProvides nutrients and improves soil structure for healthy plant growthHelps retain soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, and regulates soil temperature
ApplicationMixed into soil or used as a top dressing around plantsApplied to the soil surface in a layer ranging from 2-4 inches deep
Nutrient ContentHigh in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassiumLow in nutrients
Breakdown TimeBreaks down slowly over time, releasing nutrients graduallyBreaks down relatively quickly and needs to be replenished regularly
BenefitsImproves soil fertility and health, reduces soil erosion, and promotes root growthConserves water, reduces weed growth, and helps regulate soil temperature

The difference between compost and mulch is based on your objectives. You should stir mature compost into the top few inches of your garden soil if you primarily want to enrich the soil to add nutrients and enhance its texture.

Apply mulch, preferably one that decomposes over time; you have the extra advantage of enriching your soil if your main objective is to keep the weeds down and reduce watering. In an ideal situation, you would compost and mulch your garden beds with as much of your yard waste and food scraps are possible.

Compost is usually tilled into gardens to provide nutrients. The nutrient-rich food source benefits both plants and soil-dwelling creatures. The earthworms dig through your soil, feeding on the nutrient-rich compost, vacate it open and less compacted, allowing roots to flourish. Mulch is laid on top of the soil to keep temperatures and moisture in the garden. Mulch, like compost, releases juicy components into the soil, but not to the same amount. Mulch decomposes over time and must be replaced periodically.

Can you use Compost Instead of Mulch on your Lawn?

Compost can be used as a mulch, and it has to be at least 3 inches deep to be useful. When compost is utilized as a mulch, it tends to dry up. Because bacteria that operate on compost require a wet environment to function, they cease working until there is enough moisture to resume activity.

I’ve never had enough compost to use as mulch. Still, I do lay down a 1/2 inch layer of compost on the soil and cover it with 4 to 6 inches of another material (usually shredded leaves) to help retain moisture, keep the soil temperature more even, and add organic matter to the soil, and suppress “weed” growth.

Closing Thoughts

Mulch and compost can give all of the nutrients that your plants require to grow. Furthermore, they promote the overall health and quality of the soil in your garden. While using compost, keep in mind not to overdo it. If you dig a hole and fill it with compost, the plant will not thrive.

Plants would be unable to handle the excess phosphorus and potassium in the soil. Using natural fertilizers for your crops is a terrific method to cut down using different chemicals.  As a result, it allows you to save a significant amount of money. We hope this post clarified all your doubts regarding mulch and compost.

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