COMPOST VERSUS MULCH
COMPOST VERSUS MULCH – WHICH IS WHICH
Compost versus mulch; they are very often confused and actually there is only the slightest difference between the two.
The difference between compost and mulch is one you build and one you use. You can use the same ingredients in both.
For instance some of the best items to use as mulch are:
Leaves are awesome for mulch and to build compost
- Grass clippings
- Pine needles (if you are growing fruit)
- Fruit and vegetable peelings
- Newspaper and cardboard
These can all also be used in compost piles along with a number of other things such as:
Bet you didn’t think of coffee and coffee ground in your compost…Did ya?
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
- Wood chips
- Twigs and branches (these are best left for the compost though)
So you see the ingredients that you get for one can also be used in the other.
Compost is a fertilizer that you make for your garden. You build a pile that is approximately 4 x 4 feet and also 4 feet deep. These measurements are the best for it to break down properly. You add your ingredients to the pile and let it decompose. If you “stir” or mix it up regularly it will decompose more quickly. You can just let it sit but it may take up to a year. The resulting “compost” is black gold to a gardener. It helps prevent disease and feeds your plants. Some items you would never believe you could use like coffee and coffee grounds.
COMPOST VERSUS MULCH: COMPOST TEA
If you put it in water with an air pump (approximately 5 quarts to a 5 gallon bucket wrapped in cotton material) and let it sit for 24 hours you make compost tea which you can spray on your plants and feed them as well as helping to prevent bug infestations. This stuff is totally amazing and can help your plants grow beyond your wildest imagination. One thing though, it will not keep the deer or rabbits away.
You can make piles for specific plant preferences as well. If you mix some pine needles and oak leaves into the pile it will be preferred by your fruits and potato plants as they like their dirt a bit more acid. Kind of like people prefer soda to water. The pine really helps blueberries, all brambles like blackberries, and your strawberries will love it.
If you add an herb called comfrey to your pile (just one leaf per 4 x 4 pile) it will break down even more quickly. So, if you plan on leaving it just sit and don’t want to “stir” then add some comfrey (up to 3-5 leaves is sufficient) and it will break down faster and be ready to use earlier.
COMPOST VERSUS MULCH: BUILD YOUR PILE IN THE FALL
When you build your piles in the fall they are usually done and ready to use by spring. That is the easiest option for most.
As for mulch, that is what you actually put around the plants. It is used to protect them and keeps the ground moist for them along with weed protection. Mulch helps to keep the weeds from consuming the entire area and not leaving any room for your precious plants. Around here plants are definitely precious as they feed us through winter.
COMPOST VERSUS MULCH: IF YOU ALREADY HAVE A GARDEN
If you have a garden then in the fall cover the area with leaves mixed with grass clippings and add the other items, such as coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable and fruit scraps on top of the leaf mixture and leave for the winter. It will protect the ground and have it ready to go for your earliest plants in the spring.
NO GARDEN YET?
If you don’t have a garden yet, find the sunniest area that you would be willing to plant and cover it with this mixture. Cut the grass low first though. No need to dig it up however. Just cover it with a thick layer of mulch, about 2 feet deep and leave it. You can do this with established beds as well.
However, you may still find the occasional weed (the really tough ones will find a way through) and have to pull it, but if you watch every time you go to your garden they won’t get big enough to worry about.
Mulch will also help protect from erosion by keeping the ground moist and covered.
COMPOST VERSUS MULCH: MULCH WILL HELP PROTECT YOUR DIRT
If you have hard packed clay dirt you are in luck. Mulch will help you bunches!!! It not only keeps the ground moist and feeds it, but as it breaks down it can break up that hard clay. Mulch breaks down and provides “loam” or the stuff clay is missing to make it all soft and fluffy. This will improve the dirt tenfold.
THINKING ABOUT A GARDEN?
If you are thinking about having a garden I guarantee that mulching and compost will make it worth your while to have them around. They will help so much that you won’t know how you lived without them if you have a garden and don’t have them yet. If you are a beginning gardener I would recommend that you find the area you want to garden, mulch it, and start building compost piles. You can put the compost around the plants as you plant them and then mulch over it and have the most AWESOME garden in the neighborhood or farming community. I have been raking up everything I can find to use for mine and have been mulching the garden areas with leaves as well. Can’t wait until spring. How about you? Compost versus mulch is really not that different after all.
Wood chips and sawdust can also be used in both mulch and compost
If you want more great gardening information from my blog check this out, or even this one. Or if you would rather look elsewhere try this with Jill Winger on The Prairie Homestead. She is amazing. Or you could go to Garden.org the National Gardening Association for even more information.
If you wanted to know what the deal was with compost versus mulch I hope I helped you out. This stuff is amazing either way and I love to use it everywhere. Yes, I even use it in my container plants. So, have at it and build you some compost piles and mulch piles. ENJOY
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