Soil, Compost, Mulch, Oh My!

When it comes to your garden, you have options. You may be familiar with a variety of them like soil, compost, mulch, gravel, and so on and so forth, but what are the differences exactly? We will be sharing the differences and benefits of these options today to help you take the necessary steps towards a beautiful garden and yard!


Soil is the most general option when it comes to dirt. The average composition of soil is a combination of minerals, water, air, and organic matter, all of which help to fuel your plants’ growth and make for a healthy landscape! Soil is more commonly referred to as dirt (though the term dirt can be ambiguous, despite the general population knowing what dirt is) and soil is where most gardening and farming takes place. There are various textures that soil comes in ranging from variations of clay, sand, and silt. Depending on the texture of the soil in your yard, there can be multiple different outcomes for your plants since different plants thrive in different environments. In case you are wondering, Jacksonville’s soil is predominantly sandy, yet other variations of silt and clay soil do exist as well. 


In recent years there has been a more significant push to compost for environmentally friendly reasons as well as the benefits to your yard. Compost is organic material (think food scraps like banana peels, apple cores, or eggshells) that has decayed and broken down, adding more structure and fertility to your soil. Compost introduces beneficial organisms to the soil which helps aerate the soil and ward off plant disease and reduce landfill waste, hence the recent push for this environmentally friendly option. Composting is fairly easy but there are some steps you will need to follow to do it successfully. You will want to:

  1. Start a compost pile outside so decomposers like earthworms can help the process
  2. Lay twigs, sticks, and/or straw for proper aeration and drainage
  3. Add your compost in layers
  4. Add nitrogen-heavy materials to speed the process along
  5. Cover and try to keep the pile consistently moist and warm (tarps help)
  6. Turn for aeration every few weeks

For a more in-depth guide, check out Eartheasy’s manual here. 


Mulch is used in many gardens as a form of protection over soil. Mulch helps to suppress unwanted weeds, increase water retention, stabilize temperatures, and act as a guardian for your beautiful garden! Mulch comes in a variety of different colors and forms like wood chips, shredded bark, pecan shells, or other artificial materials like rubber. Since mulch covers soil as a protector, compost can be used as a mulch and it may be difficult to use both in your garden at the same time, though not impossible!


We hope giving a little deeper dive into these options gives you a bit of clarity as to the purpose and use of these three similar but different materials for your garden! Each one of these options has its own benefits. For assistance with your landscaping needs in the Jacksonville area, we at Skinner Lawn Services would be ecstatic to assist you. Give us a call today at 904-720-2515!