What’s the Difference between Compost and Mulch?

Healthy soil is essential for a healthy landscape or garden. For good soil health, soil conditioning is important. Keeping this in mind allows for proper water management and enhances the quality of the soil itself.

Soil conditioners such as compost and mulch play a pivotal role in making your lawn lush green. They both provide protection and nutrition to the soil but they are not the same thing. Both have different characteristics, uses and benefits.

Let’s find out how they differ.


Compost is made by decomposing and recycling organic matter in a specific ratio under a controlled environment.


Made of green waste like garden refuse, leaves, kitchen scraps, etc.
• Rich in plant nutrients and releases nutrients slowly
• Provides a rich growing medium and helps soil in retaining more moisture
• Improves the soil structure
• Applied as a soil amendment in early spring or late fall
• Can destroy pathogens or unwanted seeds
• Can be mixed in with garden soil before plantation to amend the soil
• Can be prepared at home by decomposing green waste in a bin composter
• Cost of compost is higher than mulch
• Reapplication is required frequently


Mulch is a protective layer of organic or inorganic materials applied on the surface of the soil. It is used both in gardening and in commercial crop production.


Can be made of wood chips, pine needles, rocks, leaves or decomposed granite
• Helps in water retention and weed suppression
• Regulates soil temperature and keeps the plant roots cool
• Maintains a porous surface
• Spread on the top of the soil and decomposes over time
• Insulates the soil during winters
• Enhances the visual appearance of the area
• Improves soil productivity
• Comparatively cheaper than compost
• Stays on the soil for a longer time as compared to compost

Interestingly, compost can be used as a mulch for plant protection and the elements used for mulch can be utilized on the compost heap. All compost can be used as mulch, but not the other way around as mulch contains both organic and inorganic materials.

Both are essential ingredients of a healthy soil and have a role in lawn maintenance. Using both the compost and mulch can make big differences in providing nutrients and increasing the quality of the soil. Use them properly to change your garden’s look from sterile to fertile.