Can You Use Soil Instead of Mulch? [Explained]

can you use soil instead of mulch

When you’re getting into gardening, the sheer amount of things you need to maintain your garden can be overwhelming. For this reason, it can be tempting to try and use one item for a multitude of uses.

A typical example of this is mulch and soil. What is the difference between mulch and soil and can you use soil instead of mulch?

Soil cannot be substituted for mulch as it serves a different purpose. Mulch is a specialized soil topper that helps insulate the soil, prevent erosion, and retain soil moisture.

Adding soil on top of more soil will not benefit your plants at all, so we recommend using mulch and compost to maximize your soil quality. Luckily, it can be made cheaply at home in some cases.

This article is going to explain the function of mulch and whether or not you can use soil to replace it.

Grow Your Yard Fact
It is very easy to make your own mulch at home using dried and chopped pieces of garden debris like leaves, branches, bark, and trimmings.

What is the Purpose of Mulch?

Before we can get into the possibility of replacing mulch with soil, we need to understand its purpose and purpose.

Mulch is a ground cover made from various organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, peat moss, wood chips, bark, straw, and even layers of cardboard. Living mulch like ground covers and moss lawns are also very effective. Whatever form you choose, they can be bought from your local garden store or made at home if you have the resources.

Synthetic and plastic based mulch is also available but we don’t recommend these as they are very harmful to the environment.

The way mulch works is by creating a well-insulated layer that covers the soil and protects it from the elements. This way, no matter the temperature or weather on the surface, the soil will retain a regular temperature. It also prevents excessive evaporation from the sun, which will dry up the soil and require more frequent watering. It can be applied to open beds or around existing plants and has the added benefit of keeping weeds out.

One downside to using mulch is that it can grow mulch fungus. Check out our mulch fungus guide here to learn how to handle it. It a

Is also worth noting that, since it is organic material, the mulch will eventually break down so you need to replace it a few times a year.

Can You Use Soil Instead of Mulch?

Ultimately, no, you can’t use soil instead of mulch because they serve two very different purposes.

Adding an additional layer of soil on top of your garden bed will not result in any of the benefits that mulching brings you.

As we explained above, mulch acts as a soil covering; think of it as a protective blanket for your soil. It is able to do this my creating a dry, insulated covering to protect the soil.

Soil, on the other hand, has none of the insulating and moisture-retaining qualities. This is why simply adding another layer on top of your soil won’t have the same effect.

Grow Your Yard Tip
The best combination for healthy soil is regular composting and mulching working in tandem.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What can you use as an alternative to mulch?

As you now know, soil is not a suitable replacement for mulch, but there are a few alternatives.

The two that we recommend are gravel and pine needles. Pebbles or gravel work because they look attractive, and you can buy them in various colors and sizes. Pine needles, on the other hand, are organic matter that you can pick up for free if you have a pine forest nearby.

What happens if I don’t use mulch?

Mulching your garden is an optional step, but there are many reasons why it is worth doing.

Mulch helps to suppress weeds and protect your soil from temperature variations and too much evaporation. Skipping this step may lead to increased weed growth and the need for more frequent watering.


So, at the end of the day, you can’t use soil instead of mulch.

Mulch is an organic material mix that sits on top of the soil to retain moisture, help with soil erosion, and aid insulation.

We know that adding additional products to your garden wishlist is a chore, but we think that it is well worth utilizing.

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