Compost and mulch are two of the must-haves for a great garden. They each provide different and important things for your plants throughout the growing season, keeping your garden going strong.
Compost: A Nutrient Powerhouse
refers to organic matter that has decomposed over time. There are lots of different composting methods, but the most common way to create compost is to make a pile of plant matter – such as leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and newspaper – and wait for six months to a year for it to break down into rich, decomposed humus. Compost decomposes faster when it is made mostly of ‘brown’ or dry organic matter, like leaves or paper. A two parts brown to one part green (like grass clippings or vegetable scraps) ratio is a good general rule.
, or humus, can be used in many different ways. As a soil additive, it imparts vital nutrients wherever it’s placed. You can spread it on top of the soil or dig it into your garden beds. When digging a hole for a new plant, compost can be added to the bottom of the hole. A nutrient boost can be given to existing plants by putting a scoop of compost at the plant stem’s base. You can also start seedlings off with an extra nutrient boost by adding compost to your seed starting mix.
Mulch: Protecting Your Plants
on the other hand, is always placed on the soil surface. It acts as a protective layer that helps suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, and reduce erosion. Wood, grass clipping, or leaf mulch can also contribute nutrients to the soil below as it gradually breaks down. At that point, the mulch would be, you guessed it, compost! Something to keep in mind when using chipped or shredded wood or grass clippings from your own yard is that they may harbor bugs or weed seeds. Be careful to use only suitable mulch materials.
Compost and mulch work hand in hand to improve both your soil and your gardening experience. Composting and mulching are easy to do and offer a great return on investment in improved soil, decreased weeds, and healthy plants.
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