What’s the Difference Between Compost, Mulch, and Wood Chips?

Nov 10, 2020 | Mulch

Healthy garden and flower beds require seasonal care and maintenance for long-term health. This includes adding material such as mulch or compost to the soil to provide nutrients and protect plant roots from the harsh winter weather. But what is the difference between compost, mulch, and wood chips, and which one is right for your landscaping needs?


Compost refers to a mixture of decayed organic matter that is added to the soil, acting as a natural form of fertilizer. Compost requires three main components: greens (such as grass clippings, leaves, fruit and vegetable waste, and coffee grounds), browns (such as twigs, branches, and old soil), and water. This mixture provides the carbon and nitrogen needed to fuel your soil with the right level of nutrients, reducing pests and diverting household waste from the landfill.

Compost is easily created at home by mixing equal parts brown and green materials with enough water to provide the moisture needed to promote decay. Remember to aerate your compost pile every few weeks to ensure the material is fully broken down. Add a double layer of compost to new flower beds for great results!

Wood Chips

On the other hand, wood chips are composed entirely of wood that are shredded into fine, medium, and large pieces. Wood chips can be dyed a variety of colors to add a striking look to your landscaping style.

Wood chips can help suppress weed growth, protect plant roots during the freeze/thaw cycle, and insulate the soil—helping your plants survive the cold winter months. Wood chips also absorb and release nitrogen over time, keeping your soil healthy.


So how does mulch fit into all of this? Both compost and wood chips are forms of mulch! “Mulch” refers to various organic materials that can be spread on top of your soil and include wood chips, compost, newspaper clippings, straw or hay, and leaves. Rubber mulch is also a common landscaping material, although it offers no benefit to your soil and will not break down over time.

At O’Neill Wood Resources, we proudly make our wood chip mulch in-house, offering a variety of styles to suit your landscaping needs. We also provide commercial and industrial tree services, including portable wood grinding. Visit our website or call (308) 384-1690 today to learn more or schedule a pick-up!