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Mulch versus compost and their value to a flourishing garden

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Compost and mulch are valuable to flower beds, vegetable patches and pot plants. The benefits of organic compost and mulch far outweigh the use of synthetic fertilisers.

Compost

Compost is decomposed organic matter (ideally it should have a 50% moisture content) under controlled conditions and worked into the soil to feed the roots. Compost is dug into the deeper layers of the soil.

This organic matter will improve soil structure enabling it to better absorb and retain moisture long enough for roots to have access to it. Helps soil drainage to avoid water logging. Earthworms play an important role aerating soil and drawing nutrients in.

Mulch

Mulch, on the other hand is a layer of organic material placed on the top layer of soil and acts as a protective layer. Mulch is added to flower beds, borders etc to suppress the growth of weeds, insulate the soil, stop erosion and provide nutrients to the soil below. Mulch should be applied late spring or early summer when soil is warm and moisture content is relatively high. Organic mulches will decay over time and therefore need to be reapplied.

Mulching around plants is worth every effort as it is guaranteed to nurture your plants. If you add sufficient mulch it means you are less likely to have to weed your beds. With our summers getting warmer and with prolonged dry periods, mulching will help to reduce evaporation and therefore you won’t need to water plants as often (make sure rain can get through mulch layers to reach the soil below). The result is happier plants!

Organic mulch is important for adding nutrients to the soil. This is done with the help of earthworms and therefore no need to dig in your mulch.

Mulch needs to be sufficiently deep enough to offer the above mentioned advantages. A layer 5 to 10cm’s deep is ideal.

Types of mulch

  • Grass clippings
  • Shredded bark
  • Animal manure
  • Man-made porous materials

Well-aged horse manure which has been composted or allowed to dry over winter makes an ideal mulch. It is used to improve the soil around plants and helps to suppress weeds and diseases. Manure mulch also helps retain moisture.

Both compost and mulch are effective at improving condition of soil and retaining moisture.

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