Compost vs Mulch: What’s the Difference?

If you’re into gardening, you might already be familiar with compost and mulch. For beginners, these gardening terms are often used interchangeably. However, there are significant differences between the two. Our experts at Midstate Landscaping will discuss compost and mulch to clear up any confusion. Let’s find out what distinguishes compost from mulch and when it is best to use each type of product.

What Is Compost?

Often used as a soil amendment, compost is organic matter that’s created through the process of decomposition. Leaves, grass clippings, and organic yard waste can be decomposed and recycled as a soil amendment. 

You can purchase compost at your local gardening shops and nurseries. But if you have a backyard composting bin at home, you can make your own compost mix. Just add biodegradable items like kitchen scraps, banana peels, twigs, and lawn clippings to your pile. Let it fully decompose until you no longer recognize any of the original materials. In general, the decomposition process takes from two weeks to two years. 

What Is Compost Used For?

When mixed into the soil, compost serves as a natural fertilizer, seed starter, and potting mix ingredient. It can be added to the garden beds, potted plants, and starter mixes. As it continues to decompose over time, your landscape will get the nutrients it needs. This could result in healthier soil and faster plant growth.

Benefits of Compost

  • Adds nutrients to the soil
  • Improves soil health
  • Prevents soil erosion
  • Promotes healthier and faster plant growth
  • Reduces the amount of waste

What Is Mulch? 

Mulch is used to cover the topsoil of your lawn. It can be applied to bare soil and around your plants and flowers. Mulch can both be inorganic and organic materials that provide numerous benefits to your landscape. Organic mulches can be made up of wood chips, pine needles, leaves, grass clippings, and shredded wood. When biodegradable mulch breaks down, essential nutrients will be released into the soil.

You may also choose synthetic mulches like rubber, geotextiles, rocks, and stones. Whether you apply organic materials or man-made mulch, it can suppress weeds and lock in moisture in the underlying soil.

What Is Mulch Used For?

The primary purpose of mulch is to improve the soil quality and protect your garden plants. Mulch can help retain moisture in the summer, so the soil doesn’t get too dry. Applying a layer of mulch will keep the ground moist. During winter months, mulching protects perennial plants by insulating the ground. This will moderate the soil temperature and prevent the plants from freezing and frigid conditions.

The effectiveness of mulching depends on the type and thickness of mulch you used. It’s recommended to spread about 2-4 inches of mulch. The thicker and denser the mulch, the more difficult it is for weeds to push through. But if your mulch is too thick, it will prevent water from reaching the soil and attract pests to your home.

Benefits of Mulch

  • Creates a weed barrier
  • Adds nutrients into the soil
  • Improves the appearance of your landscape
  • Stabilizes soil temperature
  • Retains moisture in the soil
  • Prevents soil from getting washed away by rainwater
  • Protects your plants from frost and winter injury

Main Difference Between Compost and Mulch

  • Compost is usually made up of decomposed, organic materials, whereas mulch can either be inorganic or organic materials.
  • Compost is mixed into the garden soil while mulch is spread on the top layer of the soil instead.
  • The main purpose of compost is to add nutrients to the soil. On the other hand, mulch focuses on preventing weed growth and retaining moisture.

Now that you know the difference between compost and mulch, you might be wondering which is the better option to use. The answer depends on your goal. If you aim to improve the soil and feed roots, use compost. On the contrary, you need to apply mulch when dealing with weed problems and soil erosion.

Get the Best Landscaping Solutions

At Midstate Landscaping, we offer backyard mulching and fertilization services. Our landscaping experts can keep your lawn lush and healthy all year long. Aside from landscaping services, we also provide commercial lawn care, hardscaping, and snow removal. We’re here to help you with all your lawn care needs. To schedule an appointment, feel free to give us a call!