The terms compost and mulch are so frequently used interchangeably that many people assume they mean the same thing.

It’s not uncommon for even long-time gardeners to confuse compost with mulch or use the term mulch when they mean compost. Compost and mulch are essential ingredients in a sustainable garden and should be applied frequently to keep your plants healthy.

Many people may not be aware of the difference between compost and mulch. By reading this guide, you will be able to know, What Is the Difference Between Mulch and Compost: Guide.

Differences Between Compost and Mulch | Guide + Reasons

Let’s start,

The term “compost” refers to any degraded organic material, such as leaves or kitchen trash. Mulch is a protective covering of organic materials placed on top of the soil by gardeners. Compost is one of the numerous forms of mulch you may utilize, and there are several benefits to doing so. When watering or raining, compost leaches nutrients (mostly nitrogen and carbon) into the soil. This provides a protective layer and all of the other benefits of any non-organic mulch.

How compost and mulch differ?

Compost and mulch differ from each other according to few reasons. As a gardener, you should know this diffence well.

1. Definition

Compost and mulch are 2 different things and that can be undewrstood by the meaning of them.

What is compost?

Compost is the crumbly mass of rotten organic waste formed from decomposed plant material, used in gardening and agriculture. It is especially vital in organic farming, where the use of synthetic fertilizers is not authorized.

Keep an eye on the ratio of the formula in the pile if you want to keep the decomposition and breakdown of your compost at a high level. As a rule of thumb, you should use two parts brown to one part green.

What is mulch?

Maintaining soil moisture, suppressing weeds, and keeping the soil cool are just a few of the benefits of mulching your garden. As they decay, organic mulches increase soil structure, drainage, and nutrient retention.

2. Purpose

They work differently to achieve their purposes.

What is the main purpose of composting?

Natural components are decomposed to produce a product that improves the condition of soil through composting. Chemically enriched fertilizers can be replaced by homemade compost piles, which are far less expensive.

What is the main purpose of mulching?

The main purpose of mulching is to retain soil moisture and limit weed growth. Mulch keeps the top layer of soil from drying up and reduces watering by roughly 60%.

3. Materials

Unlike compost, mulch can be constituted of inorganic or organic components that haven’t yet decomposed; in most situations, this is the case.

What is used for composting?

For composting, organic materials are only used.

Grass clippings

To dry out the grass clippings, spread them out on the ground for a few days and turn them a few times each day. An anaerobic pile can be created by adding freshly cut grass to the compost. This boosts Nitrogen content by a whopping 10 percent.

Kitchen wastes

Tossing kitchen waste into the trash bin is a bad idea. Food waste can and should be composted in large quantities.


Leaves don’t all compost the same way. A few leaves, such as oak leaves, can take a long time to decompose.

Leaves include minerals that typical compost doesn’t have that produce excellent compost.


Some manure is better than others when it comes to making compost. It is possible to use fresh manure from rabbits and goats. In terms of nitrogen and pathogens, they have a lot.

Differences Between Compost and Mulch | Guide + Reasons

What is used for mulching?

For mulching, organic materials and inorganic materials are used.

Organic mulching
Wood mulch

It’s typical to find wood mulches in bags, but you may also purchase them by scoop. In terms of value, they are typically utilized for landscaping.

Grass clippings

As a mulch, grass clippings are an excellent choice. In the short term, they will suppress weed growth, but over time, they will enrich the soil with nitrogen.


Straw is essentially made of grass. Seed heads are picked for grain, making them good cover crops that do not reseed.

Inorganic mulching
Black plastic mulch

Mulching with black plastic in the spring helps to warm the soil, cuts down on water loss, and is simple to use. As a result, watering is more difficult and the soil under the plastic becomes extremely hot during summer if it is not covered by leaves or mulched with another material.

Crushed stone

Mulching plants and trees with crushed stone, gravel, marble chips, or brick chips is a long-term solution. An under-the-layer of landscape fabric will help prevent weed seeds and soil from getting into the stones.

Landscaping cloth

This is one of the most secure methods for retaining water and preventing unwanted plants from sprouting. In my opinion, plastic mulches do not allow the soil to breathe, so I use landscape cloth instead.

4. Uses

How to use compost and mulch for the plants in the garden? It is common issue for the gardeners. It is different from each other.

How to use compost?

As a nutrient-enhancing supplement, compost is commonly incorporated into the soil in this manner. In addition to plants, soil-dwelling creatures benefit from the nutrient-rich food supply. It is simpler for roots to spread out and extend into the soil because earthworms, for example, eat the nutrient-heavy compost while burrowing holes in the soil, making it lose and less compacted.

How to use mulch?

In order to retain moisture, mulch is spread on top of the soil. Weeds can’t grow between your garden’s plants if you use materials like straw, leaves, and wood chips, so use them. Mulch, like compost, does leak nutrients into the soil below, but not to the extent that compost may. Mulch degrades over time and must be replaced on a regular basis, depending on the substance used.

5. Advantages

Both provide lot of benefits for gardening. But they are also different.

What are the advantages of composting?

Enhance plant growth

Adding compost to your garden soil enriches it with the nutrients your plants need to grow. It is because of this that your plants will ingest them when they are needed.

Improves the quality of the soil.

A rich source of nutrients, compost is humus. Carbon and nitrogen are added to the soil when compost is spread on top of it. Plants use these nutrients to thrive and produce energy through photosynthesis.

Introduce beneficial organisms.

A wide variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungus, and protozoa, break down organic matter. Because they aerate the soil, microbes are essential for composting, converting nitrogen into useful forms, and protecting plants from various illnesses.

Reduce the waste.

Reduces the amount of garbage in your house. Taking out the garbage less frequently or purchasing fewer trash bags can be achieved by diverting some waste.

Environmentally friendly.

Composting is a great way to save money and help the environment at the same time. You don’t have to rely on factory-made fertilizers or chemicals when you compost.

What are the benefits of mulching?

Controls the Growth of Weeds

Invasive weeds can stunt the growth of your garden’s plants if they are not controlled. Your plants can get all the nutrients they need from the soil thanks to these creatures. If you want to get rid of unwanted plants, mulching is the best way to go about it.

Provide vitamins and minerals

Mulching is an excellent source of nutrients. When you add organic matter to your soil, it becomes enriched with a wide range of nutrients that your plants need to thrive.

Controls and Retains Temperature and Humidity

Mulch’s biggest asset is its ability to retain moisture. Use mulch to keep the soil from becoming overheated by the sun.

6. Disadvantages

Compost and mulch also provides some disadvantages. As you are a gardener, it is very important to know which helps to keep your garden well.

What are the disadvantages of mulching?

If you add your selected mulch to your growing beds too heavily, you run the risk of first burying and then suffocating your plants.

If you cover your flower beds with organic mulch, you run the risk of introducing harmful pests to the soil. You may need to use slug pellets if you utilize bark, leaves, or something similar to prevent hazardous bugs.

It’s possible to completely dry out the soil beneath organic mulches that are applied too thickly, as well as any synthetic mulches.

Mulching too heavily can cause soil to overheat, which is a problem with both natural and synthetic mulches.

Sawdust and wood chips can remove soil-beneficial nitrogen. Because of this, if you use this mulch as your primary mulching material, you may need to supplement with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

All mulches prevent sunlight from reaching the soil, which might damage germination. As a result, mulch should never be used on seedbeds.

What are the disadvantages of mulch?

In addition to attracting a wide range of potentially harmful animals such as snakes and bugs, composting can also be a problem for human health.

Despite the fact that compost attracts bugs that are generally harmless, rodents and even snakes may be drawn to it as well.

Additionally, the process of composting needs a lot of time and effort. If you want proper air circulation, you’ll need to shift the compost around a few times each week. When it comes to composting, a lot of physical exertion is required over time.

What should use for garden between compost and mulch?

Compost is a great way to boost the output of food plants, increase the number of blossoms on your flowers, or speed up the growth of your plants. You should use a mulch to keep weeds at bay, prevent soil erosion, and keep the soil hydrated.

Compost and mulch are commonly used in gardens because most gardeners want all of these things to happen in their gardens.

Watch how to use compost instead of mulch | Video

Top 5 FAQs & answers related to What is the difference between mulch and compost

How long does it take for the compost to become soil?

Depending on the materials utilized, the size of the pile, and the frequency with which it is stirred, decomposition can take anywhere from two weeks to two years. Cooling, becoming dark, and decomposing into little soil-like particles are all signs that compost is suitable for use.

Does compost make an effective mulch?

It is possible to employ compost as a weed- and nutrient-blocking organic mulch. When using compost as mulch, a small layer of compost should be added, followed by another mulch, such as crushed leaves. Using this method keeps the compost from drying out, which is essential to the effectiveness of mulch.

What should not use for composting?

There are several things that should not use for composting such as,
Fish and meat scraps
Dairy, fats, and oils
Charcoal ash
Infected and diseased plants
Dog and cat wastes

Can plants harm by too much compost?

Garden soil that contains more than 5% compost can be detrimental to plants if the compost amount is too high. A surplus of nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphorus, can build up in the soil if too much compost is used. As a result of too much compost, pests and disease might thrive since plants are unable to develop their own natural insecticides. In flowerbeds and landscaping, an inch or two of compost every year is plenty; in vegetable gardens, you can use up to three inches per year without fear of running out.

Does mulch before or after planting?

Do not use mulch when filling in the holes before you begin planting. Immediately after planting, remove the mulch from a 4-inch radius around the base of each plant. Install your plants in the soil before applying mulch in new perennial beds and when planting large plants such as shrubs and trees.


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Until you can read, Benefits of a Well-Drained Soil for Plants Health | Guide


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