Welcome to another installment of understanding gardening vocabulary! I hope that last months explanations helped you win that bet with your mate at work. Ok, so perhaps you were not actually debating the difference between annual plants and perennial plants but a green thumb like me can dream!
Last month I discussed the meaning of the words annual, biennial, perennial and deciduous. This month I will be looking at the words mulch, compost, manure&fertiliser and trace elements.
To read through each of the individual articles in more detail, here you can access the entire series:
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 1 (January)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 2 (February)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 3 (March)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 4 (April)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 5 (May)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 6 (June)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 7 (July)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 8 (August)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 9 (September)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 10 (October)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Part 11 (November)
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Recap Part 1
Understanding Garden Vocabulary – Recap Part 2
Mulch – Rather than specifically defining mulch I will explain, very briefly, its purpose. Mulch is a layer of material, usually organic (like manure, peat or straw) but not always, placed around plants to help maintain moisture. Mulch is also used to help suppress the growth of weeds around plants. Organic mulches work best in my opinion because they break down and help to fertilise the plants they are surrounding.
Compost – Many people get confused with the words mulch and compost and this is understandable, they are sometimes the exact same thing. HOWEVER the main purpose is usually different. Mulch is placed around plants to maintain moisture and suppress weeds, compost is placed around plants to provide nutrients and organic material to help improve the soil in which the plants live. This is why organic mulch can be of great benefit because as it breaks down it acts as an effective compost. Compost is most often made of manures or decaying plant matter like grass clippings. Sometimes other fertilisers are mixed in with compost.
Manures and Fertiliser – You are probably sensing a trend here. Many people also often confuse compost and manure/fertiliser, once again because sometimes they are referring to the same thing. When manure is placed around plants it is done so as a compost, aimed at fertilising the plants, or providing nutrients. Manure is an example of an organic(matter which was once living or part of a living organism) fertiliser. Much of what we think of as fertiliser however is inorganic , either from naturally occurring minerals or manufactured from various elements. So basically a fertiliser is anything added to a plants environment aimed at providing some form of nutrient to make the plant healthier or grow more vigorously. A fertiliser may be organic (from something once living) in nature or inorganic (mineral or manufactured chemical) in nature. Manure is one example of an organic fertiliser.
Trace Elements – Plants basically work by taking nutrients from the soil and making them into various products that they need. These nutrients are usually an element of some kind. A trace element is any element that a plant requires for healthy growth that is usually naturally occurring in small amounts within fertile soil. In fact it is the presence of trace elements that makes a soil fertile or infertile.
So there you have it. I hope this has cleared up any mis-understandings you may have had about the difference between mulch, compost, manure, fertilisers and trace elements!