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The composition of your soil is one of the greatest factors of gardening success. As you’re thinking about soil or soilless mixes, fertilizer, and amendments, don’t forget another essential aspect of soil quality and plant support: organic matter. Organic materials are rich in nutrients and improve soil structure, and their presence in soil not only nourishes plants but also plays a vital role in overall soil health and sustainability. Read on to learn all about organic matter and important tips for adding it to your soil.
What Is Organic Matter?
Simply put, organic matter in soil refers to the decaying remains of once-living organisms and their byproducts. Sources of organic matter for your garden include:
- Plant residue: leaves, leftover harvested crops, root exudates, purposeful cover crops
- Animal residue: manure and decomposing animals
- Compost: plant matter and kitchen scraps
- Humus: organic material that forms in soil when plant and animal matter decays
- Mulch and yard waste: wood chips, straw, shredded leaves, and grass clippings used as mulch or added directly to the soil
- Worm castings: organic matter produced by earthworms in vermicomposting bins.
You can typically purchase organic matter at gardening supply stores, nurseries, or landscaping centers. You can also turn your trash into nutrient-rich treasure through at-home composting.
Why Should You Add Organic Matter to Your Soil?
Organic matter serves as an essential aspect of soil health, delivering an array of advantages that can transform your garden into a thriving, nutrient-rich haven for your plants. Organic matter serves several important functions:
- Nutrient Source: Organic matter contains essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that are gradually released as it decomposes, providing a necessary source of nourishment for plants.
- Moisture Retention: Organic matter has the ability to hold onto moisture, ensuring your soil remains adequately hydrated for plant roots without becoming waterlogged.
- Improved Soil Structure: It contributes to the overall structure and texture of the mix, promoting good aeration and drainage, which is essential for healthy root development.
- Microbial Activity: Organic matter supports beneficial microbial communities in the potting mix, aiding in the breakdown of organic materials and nutrient availability to plants.
The specific type and quality of organic matter can vary between different mixes. Gardeners often choose mixes with organic components that suit the needs of their particular plants and gardening conditions.
What You Need to Know About Adding Organic Matter to Your Soil
Similar to adding fertilizer or amendments to your soil, there are some key things you need to know before adding organic matter to your soil:
- Balance Amendments: Don’t over-amend with a single material and instead use a mix of sources to provide diverse nutrients and improve soil structure.
- Time It Properly: Add organic matter at the right time. It’s best to incorporate it into the soil well in advance of planting to allow for decomposition and nutrient release.
- Incorporate to the Right Depth: Generally, you should incorporate organic matter evenly into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil, though certain plants might have different requirements oftentimes dependent on root depth.
- Avoid Overloading: Don’t add excessive amounts of organic matter, as this can lead to nutrient imbalances and waterlogging.
- Test Regularly: Some materials, like pine needles or peat moss, can influence soil pH. Be sure to choose materials that align with your desired pH levels. Conduct soil tests periodically to monitor nutrient levels and pH, and adjust your organic matter additions accordingly.
- Monitor Moisture Levels: Organic matter can absorb and retain moisture. Pay attention to soil moisture levels to prevent over-saturation, which can lead to root rot.
Strengthen Your Soil with Harvest Hero
Organic matter plays a critical role in the quality of your soil, and there are other things you can do to support soil health like using Harvest Hero Enhanced Perlite Mix. This nutrient-rich soilless amendment and growing medium is a blend comprised of perlite, diatomaceous earth, and essential nutrients. Designed by Harvest Hero’s team of engineers and agronomists, it helps improve soil structure for nutrition which promotes bigger plants and bigger yields and helps protect your plants against abiotic stressors like extreme heat and drought. Harvest Hero Enhanced Perlite Mix will meet your plants’ needs throughout the first critical 6 weeks of growth by improving soil quality, providing plant nutrients, and amending soil properties to make it easier for the plant to absorb and translocate essential plant nutrients to the root system. Try a bag now and see the difference a hero makes in your garden!