Mulch and compost are both types of organic layers used to improve soil quality. But how do they differ?
There are differences between the two and they each come with their own set of benefits and drawbacks. If you were wondering what they are and what they do in a garden, we will cover the ups and downs of mulching and composting.
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What is mulching in agriculture?
Mulching means applying organic matter on top of your soil, serving as a blanket.
Mulch itself is made mostly of fallen leaves, foliage, and dry grass. It enhances the fertility of the soil but there are other types too. Used well, mulch is highly beneficial for any garden but it does come with a set of disadvantages you should consider.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mulching
Disadvantages of Mulching
Depending on the size of your garden, applying mulch to your outdoor area may cost more than expected. Larger areas require more work and greater amounts of mulch which does add up.
Pests & Infestations
Pests are often a problem when mulch is in use. In fact, the organic matter provides the optimal breeding environment for numerous species and diseases that can harm your plants.
The health of this organic material is crucial. If you apply it to the soil when it’s in a bad condition, mulch can be potentially dangerous to all plants in your garden. Mulches are usually applied in the first few stages of decomposition or when they are rather loose.
Advantages of Mulching
Controls Weed Growth
Weeds can be really invasive and can prevent the proper growth of the plants in your garden, if left uncontrolled. They can consume all of the nutrients from the soil that your plants need.
In addition to that, if weeds grow taller than your crops, they will block their sunlight and your plants will eventually die. In order to avoid such situations, you can use mulch to control the weeds effectively, if other organic weed killers are not sufficient.
In fact, mulching is known as a weed killer so this is a great solution to fight against them. Applying mulch over the weeds will prevent them from getting the sunlight they need - poetic justice, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Mulching is a great nutrient provider. Applying organic matter to your soil makes it rich in numerous elements that your plants consume and therefore, grow healthy.
What’s more, mulch is capable of improving a soil’s fertility, which is quite important when growing crops. As a result, you’ll end up with gorgeous plants all around your outdoor area.
Controls Temperature and Retains Moisture
The fact that it retains moisture is the greatest advantage of the organic material. Apply mulch to prevent the sun from heating the soil too much. That will prevent water from quickly drying out thus allowing plants to feed longer - and that’s not all.
Mulch also helps control the soil temperature, keeping it cool when the weather is too warm and warm during the cold days.
What is compost?
The remains of organic matter that has already decomposed, either naturally or done via a shredder. Composting is simply an amazing way to fertilize your garden. A healthy compost pile consists mostly of plant-based origins and food scraps, split into green and brown alternating layers. If you find it difficult do it yourself, read a good shredder review before you pick one.
Composting is also a great way to reduce food waste at home as most of the food bits can help your garden, regardless if you have a spacious backyard or are pursuing container gardening.
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You should bear in mind that meat, dairy products, animal waste, and bones are not the most compost-friendly.
What really makes compost different from mulch is how you use it, says Gena Lorraine, a UK professional in garden maintenance. “In this case, compost is an organic matter that is added into the soil, but not spread on top of it as it is with mulch”, she adds.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Composting
What are the Advantages of Composting?
Encourages Plant Growth
Adding compost to the soil in your garden makes it rich in the nutrients that your plants need to thrive. Therefore, they will stay there for a longer period of time and your plants will consume them when needed. This is one of the main advantages of composting.
Enhances Soil Health
Apart from improving its quality by providing it with the necessary nutrients, composting comes with many more benefits for your garden. It cleanses the soil while preventing erosion. Compost serves a natural fertilizer so your plants and flowers will receive all of the nutrients needed for successful growth.
Making your own compost gives you the opportunity to reduce food waste while recycling various leftovers that you would otherwise throw away such as tea bags, coffee grounds, produce peels, egg shells, grass, and more. These are most of the components that form the green layer in a compost pile, but the list doesn’t end here, of course.
On the other hand, brown layers include the likes of dead leaves and wood pieces. The list of the items you can put in your compost bin can be pretty big, so before you think about throwing something away, make sure you check if compostable first.
What are the Disadvantages of Composting?
One of the main disadvantages of composting is that it may release bad odour while in the process. Keep in mind, though that it may take up to a year until your mixture is ready, so before you decide to start composting, remember your neighbors. If they don’t mind it, then you can go ahead with the project.
It’s a Big Project
Composting is superb for fertilizing soil but it requires a takes a lot of work and effort until it’s ready for use. As mentioned above, it can take a few good months up to a year for a compost mixture to get all the way to a dark chocolate brown.
The earthy smell is the sure sign of organic matter being ready, too. However, in order to get to that stage, the mixture should be constantly heating up and kept moist, otherwise, the ingredients won’t be able to completely break down.
In addition, the unpleasant smell might attract various pests which may cause infestations.
In order to end up with a good natural fertilizer, the composting mixture should be kept warm. The optimal internal temperature varies between 49-77 degrees Celsius (120-170 Fahrenheit). If it drops, stir the composting mixture until it starts heating up again.
Maintaining the internal temperature can be quite of a challenge during winter months, though. Therefore, you might be facing some issues with this project in cold weather. Your compost pile won’t be getting enough sunlight, which generates heat and makes the components break down.
One of the ways to manage this disadvantage of composting is to store your bin indoors.
Are you interested in using DIY fertilizers in your garden? Read our guide on how to make your homemade orchid potting mix.
Mulch and compost can provide your plants with all of the necessary nutrients for them to thrive. In addition, they improve the overall health of the soil in your garden and boost its quality.
Using natural fertilizers is a great way to reduce the usage of various chemicals for your crops. Therefore, it helps you save a lot of money. We hope that this article helped you find out what the difference is between mulch and compost.