Mulch vs feeding

Mary370Mary370 Limerick, Ireland Posts: 765

Back to basics........can someone please explain the difference between mulching and feeding.  I think mulching is for the protection of plant crowns?  

Blood fish and bonemeal........a feed and mulch?  Bark.....a mulch?  Chicken pellets....a feed and mulch?

When to use either/all the above?



  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,173

    Mulching protects the surface of the soil, keeping in moisture and sometimes protecting the crowns of tender plants. Mulches that decay (bark, leaf mould, compost) also break down and add organic matter to the soil, which helps the soil hold on to nutrients and moisture. These things don't add nutrients themselves, they help the soil hold on to them.

    Blood fish and bone add nutrients to the soil... that's it. They're not a mulch, they are fertilisers. Bulky fertilisers like chicken pellets also add some organic matter, but they're mainly to add nutrients. You don't spread them in a blanket over the surface of the soil.

    Well rotted manure can be used as a mulch, but also adds nutrients, as well as organic matter. So it's a mulch and a fertiliser.

    Last edited: 03 October 2017 14:18:52

  • A mulch is a soil covering that covers the ground and suppresses weeds, keeps moisture in and prevents soil compaction from rain spattering the ground (particularly on heavy clay soils).

    A feed is something that adds nutrients to the soil.

    Some people will use cardboard, black plastic or shredded pine bark as a mulch. Obviously the plastic won't feed the soil and the other two materials will but only in the long term. However, if you use well rotted compost or manure as a mulch then this will act as a feed for the soil too.
    Another possible mulch is Leaf mould. This will do the job as a mulch and while it doesn't add too much in terms of nutrients to the soil it is however an excellent soil conditioner in that it will help to aerate heavy clay soils and provide a better environment for soil based organisms to thrive.

    Blood fish and bone meal is definitely a soil feed and not a mulch. It is best to fork in a month or so before planting as it is quite slow acting and provides nutrients for the soil over a long period rather than being a quick fix.You might not want to add it at this time of year as the extra nutrients (particularly Nitrogen) will encourage soft sappy growth which is not good as the colder seasons approach.

    I'm not sure how quick acting Chicken pellets are but again I think generally speaking it is best to add those in early spring.

    If you want a natural quick acting fertiliser then I'd go for a liquid seaweed foliar feed or liquid comfrey watered in.

  • Mary370Mary370 Limerick, Ireland Posts: 765

    Thank you both for clarifying this for me.  

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