Compost Vs Mulch – Which Is Better?

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In Brief: Compost Vs Mulch – Which Is Better?

Compost and mulch help us have a healthy garden. But is there a real difference between compost and mulch? Yes! Compost nourishes the soil whereas mulch protects the soil. So which one should you use for your garden? Well, it all depends on what you need. This article explores which one is better to have thriving plants.

Knowing the differences between compost and mulch helps make the best choice and ease the workload when it comes to gardening.

Many of us wonder which one is better, knowing that it is important to have thriving, healthy plants and crops. Let’s find out which one is better by comparing compost and mulch.

Compost vs Mulch – Which is Better?

IngredientsOrganic matterOrganic or inorganic
PurposeNourishes the soilProtects the soil against weeds, reduces the need for water, protects the soil during summer or winter
UsedBeneath the top layer of soilOn the top layer of soil
Nutrient releaseQuickerSlower, over time

Compost consists of organic matter that decomposes. It has a dark color and a pleasant, earthy smell.

It has numerous uses, such as added or dug into the flower or veggie beds when the soil is turned.

When planting new crops, it can be added to the hole along with the soil. This helps plants grow quicker.

Furthermore, compost can also be added to plants already growing by spreading it next to the plant. However, compost cannot be used as mulch since it’s best to add the compost inside the soil.

Mulch is an organic or inorganic layer of materials spread on top of the ground, aiming to protect it. It suppresses weed germination, insulates the ground, retains the moisture, and can also reduce soil erosion.

For a more detailed comparison and numerous examples of compost and mulching, you can take a look at this video:


All about Compost

Compost is made of organic materials and is added to the soil in order to nourish plants and crops and help them grow.

It can be made of food leftovers and yard waste that would otherwise get to the landfills, taking space and polluting the environment by releasing greenhouse gasses.

All compost heaps require three main ingredients: browns, greens, and water. Browns are ingredients that are naturally found in the yard – such as branches, dry leaves, twigs. Greens refer to vegetable or fruit waste, grass clippings, coffee grounds.

Finally, water is required to keep everything moisturized as it favors the growth of microorganisms.

A good compost pile has an equal quantity of greens and browns. Some examples of ingredients that can be composted include:

  • Vegetables and fruits, eggshells
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings and grass clippings
  • Teabags and coffee grounds
  • House plants
  • Leaves
  • Wood chips and sawdust
  • Hair and fur
  • Ashes from the fireplace
  • Shredded paper
  • Wool or cotton rags

Some products that you should not compost are:

  • Meat, fish, or dairy products as they have a strong odor that attracts animals and insects
  • Black walnut tree twigs or leaves as they release harmful substances
  • Charcoal or coal ash due to harmful substances
  • Fats, lard, grease, oils because they attract insects and animals
  • Pet waste due to the high content of parasites, bacteria, viruses, pathogens, germs, and others
  • Any yard waste that contains chemical pesticides

There are numerous benefits of composting, including nourishing the soil, retaining moisture, and reducing plant pests and diseases. It also reduces the carbon footprint.

There are numerous ways of creating compost at home. The easiest method is to collect the green and brown ingredients and place them in a pile.

All parts should be a similar, small size for best results. As materials are added, sprinkle them with water to ensure moisture. Once the pile is done, add grass clippings and green waste, burying fruit and veggie scraps under 10 inches of materials.

After this, patience is key. If the temperature is high, it can take a couple of months to make the compost. During colder months, it can take as long as 6 months.

To speed up the process, you can turn or rotate the compost heap by pushing the outside materials inside using a stick or a similar tool. This ensures the optimal flow of oxygen.

Adding moisture can help the pile restore its temperature when it drops, which is why it’s recommended to have a compost thermometer.

You know that the compost is ready when it seems earthy and woody, without having a bad odor. It has a fluffy texture, which indicates that it is ready for use.

All about Mulching

Mulching is a method many gardeners use in order to spend less time on activities such as watering, fighting pests, and weeds. There are two types of mulching: organic and inorganic.

Organic mulching contains dry leaves, straw, wood chips, compost, shredded bark, pine needles, or even paper. Inorganic mulch consists of geotextiles, stones, gravel, or black plastic.

Both types help to fight the weeds, but organic mulching helps to nourish the soil as it decomposes.

Inorganic mulching has fewer benefits, but sometimes it is the mulching of choice; for instance, black plastic helps to retain the heat inside the soil at night, helping to grow heat-loving veggies, such as tomatoes and eggplants.

A layer of 4-6 inches of organic mulch can both fight weeds and nourish the soil. If the patch is shadier and weeds are not so troublesome, 2-3 inches of mulch is more than enough.

One easy way is to use shredded dry leaves as a mulching layer, and it comes at no cost if you already have trees in your yard. They can be easily collected and cut into appropriate sizes using a lawnmower with a bagger.

Alternatively, wood chips may also be used. Both mulching types can be spread anywhere in the yard, especially in shrub borders or flower beds.

Wood chips are not suitable for vegetable or annual flowers because these have to be dug up each year, and the chips will make the process more difficult.

Pine needles are also often a popular choice because they break down slowly while still allowing water to pass into the earth. A common misconception is that pine needles make the soil more acidic, but this difference is not significant.

Using mulching has numerous benefits. It prevents weeds and weed seeds from germinating and, while it might still allow for a few weeds going through, these will be easily pulled out.

Mulching in the summer helps the soil remain cool and moist, thus lowering the need to water it as often as before.

Mulching decomposes slowly, gradually releasing nutrients in the soil and encourages earthworm activity. During winter, mulching protects the soil against freezing and thawing.


All in all, both compost and mulching are great tricks for a healthy, green garden. However, depending on our aim, one or the other might be better.

Compost should be added to plants to ensure that they have all the nutrients for quick growth. Mulch protects the soil against weeds and other damaging forces, such as freezing temperatures during the winter.