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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Got Compost: Mulch with Compost - protect soil during winter

Got Compost: Mulch with Compost - protect soil during winter: Brrrr…temps are lower than ever! Mulching garden beds insulates soil & plants from the cold. When we hear the word ‘mulch’ we think of a pro...

Mulch with Compost - protect soil during winter

Brrrr…temps are lower than ever! Mulching garden beds insulates soil & plants from the cold.
When we hear the word ‘mulch’ we think of a product; you know, like the multitude of bagged varieties you find on the shelves of our local garden centers. But did you know that mulch is an application? Yup, to ‘mulch’ your garden simply means you place a layer of organic or inorganic material on the surface of the soil. This is a good time of year to mulch our gardens since mulch acts as insulation for tender plants, roots and soil during cooler months. Mulch also protects soils against erosion; conserves water by slowing evaporation; controls certain plant diseases and decorates landscapes.
Mulching is one of the most widely used practices in residential landscapes. Many types of mulch used in planting beds are wood-based; made by grinding waste wood, e.g. pallets, tree branches, etc. The wood mulch is dyed to make it more attractive and to look more like bark, but has a very high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. Other types of mulch include synthetic sheeting, ground greenwaste and our favorite - compost.

Research has shown that compost when used as mulch can greatly improve soil fertility and plant growth. In studies comparing compost and ground wood used as mulch on ornamental plantings - mulching with compost increased soil organic matter, microbial activity, nutrient availability and tree growth. Increased microbial activity in soils has been linked to the suppression of many root diseases.

In comparison to wood mulch, the compost had a comparatively low C:N ratio and may act as high quality organic fertilizer as it decomposes. In contrast, high C:N mulch made from recycled wood caused nutrient deficiencies and reduced plant growth. The high carbon content of the mulch stimulated the growth of soil microbes which gobbled up the limited supply of nutrients, leaving nothing for existing plants, resulting in Nitrogen immobilization. Although the nitrogen-depleting effect of mulch lessens over time as it decomposes, this nitrogen immobilization by microbes may harm plants that haven’t established extensive root systems.
To be available to plants, nitrogen must be in an inorganic form, such as nitrate (NO3- ) or ammonium (NH4+). Plants aren’t capable of converting organic nitrogen to these inorganic forms. Fortunately, microorganisms commonly found in soil and compost convert organic nitrogen into inorganic nitrogen, a process called mineralization. Plants may then take up the nutrients released by this process.

Soils in urban and suburban landscapes often lack nutrient rich organic matter because topsoil is usually removed, disturbing soil during construction. Research results demonstrated that mulching with compost increases organic matter, microbial biomass, nutrient availability, and plant growth. The use of compost as mulch supports a healthy soil food web;  restoring ecological processes to degraded soils, while diverting valuable natural resources from landfills.
To learn more about compost and its benefits, visit or call Harvest Blend Compost @ 805-347-9998 for helpful recorded info.

Harvest Blend Compost builds healthy soil!