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Mulch vs Compost vs Fertiliser: What’s the Difference?

Mulch, compost, and fertilizer are commonly used in agriculture and in gardening. But how do they differ from each other? Keep reading to find out!

Aarushi Chadha
Mulch vs Compost vs Fertiliser: What’s the Difference?
Mulch vs Compost vs Fertiliser: What’s the Difference?

Usually, people confuse mulch, compost, and fertilizer as the same thing. However, that’s not the case. Let’s know how the three differ from each other and what purpose they serve.

What is Mulch?

Mulch is a layer of material that is applied to the surface of the soil for reducing weed growth, improving the fertility of the soil, and conservation of soil moisture. It also helps regulate soil temperature and is used for aesthetic purposes. There are two types of mulch: organic mulch and inorganic mulch.

While organic mulch adds beneficial nutrients to the soil and can suppress the growth of weeds, however, it cannot fully block weed growth. Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, is made from a synthetic material that doesn’t have any nutritional benefits for the soil but helps the soil retain water and fully blocks the propagation and growth of weeds.

Advantages of Mulch

Mulching or the process of adding a layer of mulch has several benefits for the soil and the plants. Let’s take a look at them-

  1. Controls soil temperature- Mulching regulates soil temperature fluctuations. A layer of mulching applied to cover the soil during the hot summer season helps keep the roots of the plant cooler. On the other hand, a layer of mulch protects the roots of the plan from developing frost during winter.

  2. Prevents soil erosion- The impact of water on soil loosens the top layer of the soil and is one of the leading reasons for erosion. Mulch prevents soil erosion as it protects the soil by breaking the impact of water.

  3. Retains soil moisture- Both organic and inorganic mulch helps with the water retention of soil as it limits the evaporation of water. Mulch also absorbs excess water and retains moisture which can be provided to nurture the plant once the soil has dried. It protects the soil from drying out during the hot summer season.

What is Compost?

Compost is a resourceful way of recycling food scraps and yard trimmings in order to form an organic plant fertilizer that improves the soil’s chemical and physical properties. Farmers usually refer to compost as “black gold” as it is rich in essential nutrients and can be used in agriculture, gardening, and horticulture.

Adding organic compost to the soil helps improve the soil’s moisture retention, increases nutrient retention, aids drainage, reduces compaction of dense soils, and acts as a natural source of nitrogen. An amateur gardener can easily make their own compost and save themselves money and even reduce their carbon footprint.

Advantages of Compost

  1. Adding compost to the soil helps improve its water retention. It helps the soil absorb water properly and even makes the soil healthy enough to survive low water or drought-like conditions.

  2. Making your own compost helps you reduce personal food waste, thereby, cutting down the methane emissions from landfills. Composting is a valuable tool in combatting climate change as it helps make the soil more resilient to rising temperatures.

  3. Compost improves the overall health of the soil as it introduces essential nutrients and beneficial organisms to the soil which improves its chemical and physical structure.

What is Fertilizer?

Plants require a lot of nutrients to have proper growth and development. Therefore, fertilizers are used to regularly replenish the soil and make it nutrient-rich. Fertilizers whether they are organic or inorganic in nature are added to the soil to enhance the fertility of the crop and to supply the plant with nutrients necessary for a good quality crop and high yield.

Oftentimes, fertilizers and compost are used interchangeably, however, they are quite different. While compost is added to the soil to improve the soil’s quality and make it fertile, fertilizers, either organic or chemical, are intended to meet the nutritional requirements of an actively growing plant.

Advantages of Fertilizer

  1. Fertilizers help increase the yield of the crop.

  2. Organic fertilizers help reduce soil erosion.

  3. Fertilizers rich in nitrogen help improve the foliage of the crop and ensures that the crop has faster and thicker growth.

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