The Differences Between Mulch and Compost

Mulch and compost have applications in the home as well as industrial uses — however, too many, the two are interchangeable when in reality they are two distinct materials.

Technically speaking, compost consists of organic matter that has been decomposed over time. Compost is very common in the home garden, with home gardeners creating a compost pile that includes scraps, lawn clippings, and decaying plant matter. After a year or so, it’ll break down and create compost which can be used as fertilizer to jumpstart the garden. To start a compost pile, it is typically recommended that the formula consists of two parts dirt, to one part green material, turning and watering as needed to aerate the compost.

In contrast, mulch is a layer of organic material placed directly on top of the soil as a sort of protective cover to protect it from erosion. It also breaks down over time — but typically not as fast as compost. For mulch, different materials are used including straw, shredded leaves, or even grass clippings. Cedar chips are also used on perennial beds as it imparts a pleasant smell as well as providing coverage for several seasons.

Applications and Uses

  • Unique benefits. Compost is mainly used to improve soil structure and can be deemed as some sort of conditioner that can retain and make existing nutrients more readily available. Mulch helps to suppress weeds, moderate temperatures, as well as conserve water as it helps to prevent erosion and aggressive evaporation.
  • Can be used together. Compost can be mixed directly into the soil to condition garden beds, as well as used to top off the soil. Mulch can be spread on top of the compost and dirt to protect it from the outside elements.
  • Different types of materials used. Compost can be prepared at home with a compost bin fixed into the kitchen. For larger plots of land, dedicated space in the garden can also be used to help cultivate compost. Compost can be formed with the help of vermicomposting, where worms are used to help break down organic matter as well as help aerate the compost. Organic mulch is made with wood chips, straw, or leaves. The main idea is to use reasonably large particles. A mixture of gravel and landscape materials can also be used to help with mulch.

About K&B Landscape Supplies

Catering to the Midwestern United States, K&B Landscape Supplies has been in the business of mulch manufacturing since 1986. If you need assistance in preparing, replacing, or maintaining mulch, contact us.