Can Compost be Used as Mulch

Compost vs Mulch


The question has been asked can compost be used as mulch? well, to answer your question let’s take a closer look at compost vs mulching.

What is compost

Compost has been defined as various organic material that goes through a process or is recycled into soils that are rich in nutrients.

What is mulch?

Mulch can either be organic or inorganic in the case of organics mulch is derived from plant material such as leaves, straws, branches, stems, etc… and is used to beautify, conserve moisture, suppress weeds, add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, keeps the soil temperature cool acts as an insulator for plant’s roots during wintertime and may also help influence soil ph. Mulches are placed on the soil’s surface around garden plants whereas stated earlier compost is organic materials that are turned into nutrient-rich soil.

Let’s deal with the latter first

Some example of mulches

Bark Mulch-can-compost-be-use-as-mulch
  • Grass Clippings
  • Wood Chip
  • Pine Needle
  • Leaves
  • Shredded Bark
  • Sawdust

Organic Mulches

Grass Clippings

The use of grass clippings has so many benefits such as holding weeds down, retaining moisture, reduces thatch, and as clippings break down will add nutrients to the soil the disadvantage is that if the grass has a disease don’t use clippings it can spread disease, under extreme wet condition grass can end up clumping.

Wood Chip

Wood Chip will help with the soil ph, retain moisture, keep the soil temperature cool, hold weeds down. The disadvantages are that as mulches age and decompose it will lose their color and beauty, wood chips tend to compact easier.

Pine Needle

Pine needle is also used as mulch because of its ability to hold moisture, acting as an insulator, adding nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, for aesthetics, prevents soil compaction, helps to prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds. The disadvantage is that pine needle can be pretty costly, offers little nutritional value, may be hazardous to fire, under heavy rains or wet condition may hold too much moisture, have been known to encourage garden insect pests.


The use of leaves as mulch is a great way to save a few dollars because as the leaves fall from our trees they can be recycled. Leaves can retain moisture, suppress weeds, add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes aids in the adjusting of soil ph. The disadvantage of leaves is that it can be a hiding place for garden insect pests, can become soggy when wet, and if leaves are diseased and insects infested not to use around garden plants to avoid these issues of spreading.

Shredded Bark

It helps to conserve moisture, holds down weeds, may help to adjust soil’s ph, used for beautification, add nutrients as it decomposes, acts as an insulator to protect the plant’s roots. May float away doing heavy rain downpour, must be replaced after a while because it will lose its color, have been reported to pull nitrogen from the soil.


Sawdust can help to suppress weeds, small amounts will condition the soil helping with the watering holding capacity, adding nutrients, has been known to repel slugs and snails by raising it a few inches around your plants. The downside to using sawdust is that this material has been known to cost the leaching of nitrogen.

Inorganic Mulches

Wood Chip-using-compost-for-mulch
Wood Chip
  • Landscape Fabrics
  • Plastic Mulch
  • Rocks
  • Gravel
  • Rubber Mulch

Inorganic Mulches

Landscape Fabrics

The advantage of landscape fabric is that it allows water, air, and fertilizers to penetrate the soil along with suppressing weeds, the disadvantage is that because this mulch is inorganic it does not have any nutrient value and once the fabric tears weeds will being to pop up.

Plastic Mulch

Plastic mulch is made from a material known as polyethylene film, this polythene material is a black sheet of plastic. This plastic mulch will suppress weeds, reduces moisture evaporation, may reduce root damage, insulates the soil, and prevents soil erosions. The disadvantage is this type of mulch has no nutrient value meaning it cannot breakdown, may encourage excessive moisture, and increase the soil’s temperature which can have a negative effect on some garden plants.


Decorative rocks have their place in the landscape and gardens, these rocks can suppress weeds once applied in a great amount. This type of mulch will also allow water penetration and will last a long time. The disadvantage is rocks, have been known to reflect the sun’s heat which can cause garden plants to use more water. This material can be hard to work with and can be pretty costly.


Acts the same way as rocks.

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is produced from ground recycled tires, this mulch type is available in various colors, suppress weeds, helps to retain moisture. The disadvantage is that this material has no nutrient value, has difficulty in breaking down meaning it can remain in the soil for a long time.   a study that was done discovered that this material is also flammable.


We have said so much about mulches but what about compost?

With so many positives that have been said about compost in many garden reviews, it is hard to believe that there are some disadvantages so here we go as we take a closer look at compost.

The advantages of compost

1. Purchasing compost can be pretty costly but the good news is you can go the cheap route and create your very own compost.

2. This is an environmentally safe approach because you are the one that is building your compost.

3. Compost will increase the soil’s water holding capacity.

4. Condition your soil to hold more nutrients.

5. Improves soil drainage.

6. Compost helps with recycling which can save money.

7. Compost, in my opinion, maybe safer than synthetics because the overuse of synthetics will lead to plant burn.

8. Improves soil aeration.

The disadvantage of compost

1. It can be pretty costly if deciding on purchasing.

2. This process takes a while to get to the final product but it is worth it.

3. Starting a compost pile may attract rodents if not properly secured.

4. It carries an odor.

5. Nutrients can be leached out due to heavy rain downpours.

6. The nutrient value of compost is low compared to synthetic or manmade fertilizers.

What does it all boil down to?

From what we have discussed both of these garden products have their advantages and disadvantages, in my opinion, I have used both on garden projects because they complement each other and will have your garden and landscape area looking great, why not incorporate both mulch and compost your garden plants and soil microbes which benefits from both these garden material will love you for it as your garden plants grow healthy and happy giving results you are proud of.

The final

Mulches along with compost can do so much good to our landscapes and gardens, when it comes down to a choice of mulch it is an individual preference but as stated earlier compost should be added to garden soils to build the soil’s structure to be able to retain water and nutrients along with good drainage and proper air circulation for soil microbes. I hope that I have answered your question and you can now decide what’s best for you as you move forward with the information that was provided.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

16 thoughts on “Can Compost be Used as Mulch”

  1. Hi, We have always had our own compost, this truly makes for the best nutrients for your plants. I am not a big fan of mulch at all but there are certainly some advantages if you cannot have your own compost. Do you know if there is a way to create your own compost even though you would be staying in a apartment? Perhaps something for the balcony?

  2. Well from my experience it definitely can. Of course this only goes for organic mulch. Also, I agree with you that compost is a bit expensive but it is the way to go if you want to have fertile soil and ensure good harvest/growth of your plants and your garden health.
    You gave some nice points, especially about unorganic mulches, which I never used before in my garden.

    I appreciate it.

    • Organics and inorganic do have their advantages it’s all what you prefer. Thanks so much for your kind words. All the best to you.

  3. Hi Norman

    That is the perennial question that always confuses gardeners. As you say there are so many materials that can be used for mulch being organic material that will break down over time and other materials that will not break down over time. What to use is so dependent on how much money you have and what is available locally. Compost is a good mulch but it depends on its quality, as some have seeds in them which can propagate all over the garden. It will rot down over time but the biggest problem is that it is not long lasting, but cheap to replace. With mulches it all swings and roundabouts, it is simply what you prefer.

    Great article


  4. Thank you once again for the gift of such an article, In your another article comments  I mentioned I have a garden of my own. And I am so inspired by your article. I make compost fertilizers that I create for my own garden. And this is a very useful fertilizer for my garden. After reading your article I got to know better how to make it. And thank you so much for that

    • Hello and thanks so much for your words of encouragement so happy to help and it is so good to know you are hard at work in your garden so happy to help. All the best to you.

  5. Well! I would say that being a seasoned gardener, I am not that familiar with mulch but surely I know of composts and that is even present in my garden right now. Having compost hepos in maintaining the nutrients of the soil and enhance the growth of the plants too. Well! Having read this about mulch too and how it can be well incorporated with compost. Please, is there a way I can order for mulch online? Or where can I possibly get it from?

    • So happy that I help, mulches are really amazing and have so many benefits. Check with your local garden center, hardware store or plant nursery. Hope this helps.

  6. I really like the break down of all the different types of Mulches. When I was reading through I was wondering about the rocks. Before spreading the rocks, should you put something under the rocks so that weeds do not grow?
    I used black plastic before I put down Mulch it does seem to keep the weeding process down. this is truly
    a good break down and some really good examples. This is a very good website has a lot of good information.

    • Hello and thanks so much, putting down the black plastic should be something you should do first because this way this method will really make it difficult for weeds to emerge. I hope this helps, and please let me know how it goes.

  7. Thanks so much for this post, I had some compost used on my farm and really I have some mulch also through the leaves that fall off the tree but really want an inorganic mulch to eradicates those weeds on my farm, I wanna ask if this is a good idea by me and if it is where can I get them from?thanks

    • Hello so happy to help, mulch serves so many purposes, organic mulch do have their place except for decomposing with adds nutrients to the soil conserving moisture, etc… if the purpose is only for keeping weeds down without the benefits of the orgainc mulch then give it a go. These mulches can be purchased from your local garden center, hardware store or plant nursery.

  8. I have seen your article it is really helpful for plant lover.I did not know before that compost fertilizer could be prepared in such a way.

    What compost fertilizers can be made that I did not know that I found out in your article.In my own garden, I planted many varieties of plants.

     I bought compost fertilizers from outside to get them good. If I could make compost fertilizer, I wouldn’t have to buy compost fertilizer from outside.

    Thanks to posting this type article.I want you will posting of this type article.Go Ahead best of luck.

    • It is so amazing to see what we having in our kitchens that we can use as natural organics saving us money and growing healthy plants so happy to help all the best to you and have a good day.


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