Describe the characteristics of the following materials: farmyard manure, garden compost, mushroom compost, composted green waste, leaf mould, chipped bark, composted straw, green manure and crop debris.


HORSE MANURE hot/needs to be composted before use/medium food content/long or short;

COW MANURE cool/medium food content/long or short;


PIG MANURE cold & wet/little or no bedding/medium food content/can be high in copper (not good)/smell.

GARDEN COMPOST Homemade; Good recycling of material back into the garden; Can be variable according to how made and materials used; Best food content of all BOM; Can be used long or short.

MUSHROOM COMPOST Well-rotted house compost mixed with peat and chalk – chalk makes alkaline, therefore to be considered in how you use it; Can have live mycelium content (not always good); Little or no plant food content; Has a good physical effect on the soil.

Benefits: Will raise the soil pH as lime is used as a capping; The rest is well rotted horse manure.

Limitations: No accurate knowledge of calcium content; Can contain live mycelium and other spores.

Environmental: Cost of transport.

Health and Safety: Can contain or give off spores; Hygiene.

Timing of application: Autumn – and allow to be washed into the soil, then dig in or use as a mulch.

Effectiveness of the material: No accurate knowledge of calcium content.

GREEN WASTE garden waste

COMPOSTED GREEN WASTE (commercially produced garden compost): Should be the same as garden compost; Good recycling; Look to its quality – may contain pathogens or plant disease- Temperature

LEAF MOULD Home-made/recycling; Good physical effect on the soil; Often alkaline; Tends to be weedy as the process is cold and can take 2 years; Little or no food content.


Landscaping: Natural look for woodland paths; Smell/pine; Local can be cheap; Can become messy/water logged; Can need to be topped up; Not hard wearing or load bearing.

As BOM Good effect on heavy soils if dug in; No food value. Can deplete N.

COMPOSTED STRAW commercially produced Good effect on heavy soils if dug in; Little or no food value.


Growing a green manure crop; Protects soil structure; Absorbs plant foods from the soil; Chopped down and dug into the soil to break down, releasing the plant foods back to the soil and becoming BOM/humus in the soil; Usually a planned or catch crop to keep the soil covered; Involves work.

CROP DEBRIS Best used on the compost heap, but as a crop is stripped from the land its debris is just dug in in-situ as a green manure.

Describe the appropriate uses for the above materials, to include: mulching, soil improvement, nutrient supply.


Describe the benefits and limitations of using the above materials.


State the purpose of mulching and compare organic mulching materials with inorganic alternatives (eg polythene, woven fibres, gravel, glass).


Quick mulches - Old compost, coarse compost, strawy manure -Can be intended to break down and become Humus over a season. Slow breakdown mulches, Bark, wood shaving, shredded paper, will break down slowly – several seasons but used mostly for annual weed control and prevention of capping of soils. As they break down they will use nitrogen in decay process so reduce fertility temporarily.

Mulching (materials laid over the soil): Conserves moisture; Supresses annual weeds; Provides plant food; Looks nice; Best applied when the soil is moist and warm, usually early April.

Organic Materials: Ideally 10cm deep; Most organics like FYM and compost are good as they provide plant foods but only last a season, with the exception of bark chip which has no food but lasts up to 5 seasons.

Materials laid over the soil; Organic materials ideally 10cm deep; Conserves moisture; Suppresses annual weeds; Provides plant foods; Can look nice; Best applied when the soil is moist and warm, usually early April; Most organics like FYM and compost are good as they provide plant foods, but only last a season, although bark chip has no food but last up to 5 seasons.

Inorganic Alternatives: Polythene (black) needs to be UVI inhibited: Works well; Conserves moisture; Supresses annual weeds and perennials; Black warms the soil; Provides no plant foods; Does not look nice (can be used under a thin layer of nicer looking material such as bark/gravel or cocoa shell); Can puddle as water cannot go through; Holds soil very wet underneath so soil structure is damaged; Long lasting.

Woven Fibres: As polythene but draining and breathable.

Gravel: Looks better, but should be appropriate to surrounding stone. Needs to be thick to stop light going through and allowing weeds to germinate; Not good for small wheels (push chairs); Good over woven fibres; Long lasting.

Glass: As gravel; Brighter colours?? (graveyard look??).






State the environmental implications of mulching and mulching materials, the effect on the soil of green manures.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *