Difference between compost & mulch

perezjuanf(10a)March 29, 2013

What is the Difference between compost & mulch, I thought that mulch came from trees while compost came from animals

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Compost is a mixture of materials, mostly vegetative that has been pre digested. Compost can be made with animal manures, but does not need that, and vegetative waste.

Mulches are materials that are laid on top of the soil to aid in conserving soil moisture, aid in "weed" suppression, aid in keping soils cool, and to help supply organic matter to the soil as they are digested. Materials that can be used for mulch include shredded leaves, straw, hay, wood chips, shredded bark, or about any other vegetative waste you have, or even stones.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:47AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Compost is a mixture of materials, mostly vegetative that has been pre digested. Compost can be made with animal manures, but does not need that, and vegetative waste.

Mulches are materials that are laid on top of the soil to aid in conserving soil moisture, aid in "weed" suppression, aid in keping soils cool, and to help supply organic matter to the soil as they are digested. Materials that can be used for mulch include shredded leaves, straw, hay, wood chips, shredded bark, or about any other vegetative waste you have, or even stones.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:48AM
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Gary_Snail(9)

You specifically didnâÂÂt mention that compost could be used as a mulch, is there a reason for that?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:01PM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

Gary, compost makes an excellent mulch. I use it every chance I get.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:27PM
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molex

if you have a surplus of it, sure, use it as mulch as well, I do

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:28PM
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perezjuanf(10a)

I am planning to turn the ground on the area I am planning to plant melons then mix cow manure compost then cover the area with black plastic then plant the seeds

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:48PM
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gardengal48

Mulch is a generic term which refers to anything that is used to cover the surface of the soil. It can be organic - leaves, grass clippings, bark, sawdust, compost, manure. Mulch can also be inorganic - gravel, lava rock, plastic sheeting, shredded tires. Which you prefer to use depends a lot on the purpose or intent......both types have their attributes.

Compost is decomposed (or mostly decomposed) plant and animal matter. And as others have noted it can make an excellent mulch.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 3:18PM
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robertz6

Compost is a 'what', mulch is a 'where'.

Mulch is material, organic or non-organic, that is placed on the top of soil. For purposes of retaining moisture, keeping soil from drying out, to make it easy to pull the weeds that will sprout, to slowly release nutrients to the soil, etc. If you dug this top layer of material into the soil after a while, it would no longer be considered mulch.

Examples of mulch would include compost, wood chips, shredded leaves, bark pieces. Non-organic examples might include lava type rock and shredded rubber tires. I was going to included shredded paper as a non-organic product, but thought better of it.

Compost is organic matter that has been broken down into useful stuff plants can use. Many folks on this forum will choose to make compost as opposed to buying it. Shredding trees to make mulch is simple, making a decent compost product is a bit harder and certainly takes longer.

You might ask how long does it take to make compost, and receive replies from 14 days to over a year. The latter is a more accurate than the first number. Even though I try to make a 'hot' compost pile, with a core temp of 130 to 140F, it takes me three or four months to get a material I consider ready. I previously used the word 'finished', but this was a very bad choice of terms.

Vendors of bins, tumblers, and composting systems often give numbers like '14 days' or 'ready in 30 days' for the products they hope to sell. Gardening magazines and web sites offer more realistic lengths of time from one month to one year. I read once that one guy made compost in three days in a test tube, but would not care to use it even if it was affordable.

I reread the FAQs, and think we need to have simple defnitations of the terms Soil, Mulch and Compost at the top of the FAQ list.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

One could use compost as a mulch, but most people state that they never have enough compost for what they want, or need, and since to be effective a mulch needs to be 3 or more inches thick. Why use compost, for mulch, if something else is more readily available?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 7:39AM
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luckygal(3b)

I used to use my homemade compost (which has a sawdust/wood shavings base) as mulch because I knew it was not completely 'finished'. However, it only lasted a few months before it 'disappeared' so wasn't great as a mulch. It is a wonderful soil amendment tho and I feel it feeds the worms and other good soil organisms and so benefits the plants. However I have never had enough and have now started using shredded bark as mulch which was already decomposing (heating) when I applied it. I plan to push back this mulch near plants and apply my compost twice a year then return the mulch.

One can describe the differences between compost and mulch in many ways, however I feel that the benefit of compost is that it feeds the soil organisms which produce nutrients for the plants and mulch protects the soil thus making a more stable environment (moisture and temperature) for the soil organisms and plants. A good mulch will also, over time, add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. This mimics what happens in nature when leaves fall providing mulch for the soil, then gradually decompose acting as 'compost' and feeding the soil.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 9:13AM
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Gary_Snail(9)

I guess I really donâÂÂt have compost, just mulch in a state of decomposition, so I get it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 2:51PM
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jolj(7b/8a)

If you are no till compost is always a mulch.
If you turn your soil, with shovel &/or tiller, compost is added before turning to to enrich the soil.
If you add compost as a top dress after you plant, then it is a mulch.
Compost can be added in most any form of decomposition & turn under.
But most of the time when some one says compost, they mean "finished compost".
What is the difference ?
The state of decomposition, but that another thread.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 10:36PM
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