Mushroom compost makes a great addition to the soil and offers many benefits to the garden, so it’s not surprising that it’s often sold as a lawn conditioner to help improve the soil quality.
One of the most common pieces of advice for improving soil is to add compost. So, if mushroom compost is used to improve the soil what is a soil conditioner? We break down the difference between a soil conditioner and a mushroom compost and what applications they are best used for?
What is mushroom compost?
Mushroom compost is a type of gradual-release, organic fertilizer (at about a 2-1-1 level). Mushrooms are grown in a mixture of natural products, including horse manure, cottonseed hulls and straw. Mushroom compost is what remains after the mushrooms are harvested. Mushroom compost is a perfect mix of organic material that is environmentally friendly and suitable for veggie beds, trees, flowering plants or establishing lawns.
While mushroom compost is relatively low in terms of nutrients, the straw content that decomposes over time breaks up clay-like soils which is why mushroom compost makes a great soil amendment product for denser soils. Having said this, it is not suitable as a soil replacement. The fertilizer capability of mushroom compost is relatively low with a neutral PH level of 6.6 and high in soluble salts levels means it can cause damage to salt-sensitive plants, like rhododendrons, azaleas and young seedlings.
To get great results when gardening with mushroom compost, aim to plant in spring and mix the garden soil with the compost before planting. A good mix of 25/75 mushroom compost to soil is a good ratio to start out with for container use or 50/50 as a light top dress for lawns. Mushroom compost acts as an effective mulch product that slowly works its way down into the soil helping to give lawns a boost.
What is a Soil Conditioner?
These are products designed to improve the quality of the soil and unlike mushroom compost they provide vital nutrients to growing plants. If you are looking to restore balance to compacted lawns or replenish trace elements and minerals to soil that has deteriorated over time, then consider using a soil conditioner.
Poor soil structures mean the ground can become compacted over time preventing roots from properly establishing themselves or your soil may lack organic matter and be too sandy which can cause plants to become undernourished. Growing plants eventually exhaust the naturally occurring minerals, and nutrients so be sure to include seasonal conditioning to keep your gardens in pristine condition and optimal health throughout the year.
Soil conditioners resolve these types of soil problems by adjusting the texture of your soil. You can improve water retention, aeration and adjust the soil pH when the right material is added. Before you add a soil conditioner first ascertain what nutrients your soil may be lacking. Many conditioners alter your soil’s composition and nutrient levels. For instance, Greensand adds magnesium and potassium, Gypsum adds calcium and limestone adds magnesium and calcium.
Still Not sure?
A soil conditioner is essentially a soil amendment product that improves the physical properties of the soil. While mushroom compost is almost always a beneficial soil improver and general all-round fertilizer.
When choosing a soil conditioner, be sure to understand what the particular conditioner will add to the soil so that it's effective and targeting the problem. If you are not really sure what your soil structure and texture is you can purchase an inexpensive soil test kit to identify potential soil conditions which will help you to decide if a soil conditioner or mushroom compost will help to improve certain soil properties such as increasing the water-holding capacity of the soil, so you don’t need to water as often.
It is very easy to become overwhelmed and unsure of what to buy when confronted with a range of products that all seem to have advantages and disadvantages to certain applications. Mazzegas Landscaping staff have years of experience helping customers select the right products specific to your locality. So, if you still need help deciding, be sure to pop into our store. We can help you create gardens that thrive by simply choosing the right products.