Think of the soil in your garden as a living, breathing, dynamic ecosystem. For soil to be healthy, it requires microorganisms, earthworms, etc., to break down the decaying plant and animal matter into nutrients and other minerals.
Organic matter like mulch, manure, and compost are used to turn sandy soil into rich organic soil packed with nutrients and minerals. Once the organic matter decomposes, it feeds the plants with natural, precious nutrients and minerals and improves the drainage and quality of the soil.
Any ardent gardener would tell you that the first step in growing healthy plants and vegetables is to ensure your soil quality is correct. In the following article, you will find all the reasons you need as to why organic soil is better for your garden.
What Is Organic Soil?
You go out walking into the forest. While walking, you inhale deeply…then exhale. All around you, leaves are decaying; they crunch at your feet as you walk. Bending down, you grab a handful of the dark earth.
In that handful, you notice a few earthworms, along with a few dark brown dried leaves. You bring it up to your nose to take another deep breath in.
What you have in your hand is a perfect example of organic soil…soil rich with nutrients and minerals.
Organic matter in the soil serves as a reservoir for rich nutrients and water. It is vital in that it aids in reducing compaction and surface crusting while increasing water infiltration in the soil.
Soil comprises 45% minerals, 25% water, 5% organic matter, and 25% air. Even though the percentage of organic matter in the soil is minute, it still has an overall impact.
With commercial farming methods changing so much, farmers are no longer concerned about the soil content; instead, the emphasis is on production.
Modern agricultural methods, such as plowing, disc-tillage, and vegetation burning, increase the decomposition of the organic matter in the soil and encourage wind and soil erosion.
Farming systems, such as repetitive harvesting of crops, inadequate efforts to restore the soil’s nutrients, and improving the soil’s quality, have robbed the soil of precious nutrients and drastically reduced the organic matter in the soil.
For soil to be organic, it has to be “living.” The organic materials contained within the soil are broken down into organic matter, which is further decomposed into humus.
Moisture absorption and retention are two main contributors to making the soil more organic. By adding together more organic matter to the soil, the soil structure increases. The capacity of the soil to absorb and retain water also increases.
Why The Need For Organic Soil?
Sunlight, a vital component, is needed for a plant to grow healthy. The plant’s cells trap sunlight. Through a process of photosynthesis, light energy is converted into chemical energy. Humans, in turn, get their energy from eating plants.
Similarly, the microorganisms in the soil get their energy by breaking down plant and animal matter. The microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and other life forms help with organic matter decomposition.
These microorganisms make up the soil food web. The soil food web forms part of a more extensive system that breaks down plants to form sugars, passed onto the microorganisms. The microorganisms will perish and feed the soil with more minerals and nutrients.
It’s a chain effect; the more organic matter in the soil leads to more microorganisms, leading to more nutrients and minerals. Here is the basis for good organic soil.
How Can I Make The Soil In My Garden More Organic?
If you consider improving the soil quality in your garden, it is effortless. The benefits of having organic soil are discussed further in this article, but we discuss how you can improve the soil quality.
1. Adding Compost To Improve Your Soil
Compost is an excellent way of improving the soil quality, for it contains the decaying matter of plants, animals, and other organic matter. Compost prevents the soil from “baking or cracking” during times of drought.
Because compost is rich in organic matter, it increases water absorption. By adding compost to your garden, you also introduce more of the good bacteria and other microorganisms into the soil.
2. How Can Organic Matter Improve Soil?
Organic soil is “alive”; it is teeming with nutrients, minerals, earthworms, and other microorganisms, which improves the quality of your garden. Therefore, it makes sense to introduce more organic material into the soil.
Adding earthworms, eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, shredded leaves, and grass clippings is excellent for making your soil more organic. As these ingredients break down, they aerate and fertilize the soil.
3. Calcium Sulfate Improves Organic Soil
If you find the soil in your garden heavy with clay, your first instinct may be to add more sand. But this will create a more cement-like structure. Gardening enthusiasts prescribe using calcium sulfate to improve the soil quality.
Calcium sulfate bonds with the finer clay particles to form larger particles. The larger particles create air pockets, which aids drainage, allowing oxygen to reach the roots of the plants.
Calcium sulfate is found in pellet form, facilitating spreading across the lawn utilizing a lawn spreader or handheld spreader.
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Last update on 2023-05-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Benefits Of Organic Soil
When you decide to “go organic,” it is essential to realize it is more than changing your diet. It becomes a lifestyle, especially if you decide to grow your vegetables.
To grow fresh, healthy organic fruits and vegetables, the soil in your garden needs to be balanced. Improving the quality of the soil is the first step, but by doing so, you create a whole ripple effect that spreads out in so many directions that impacts the entire ecosystem.
Listed below are some benefits of organic soil:
1. Organic Soil Increases The Nutrient Supply
Organic matter released into the soil contains many nutrients and minerals. Each year just one percentage of raw organic matter in the soil releases between 20 to 35 pounds of nitrogen, 4.5 to 6.5 pounds of Phosphorous pentoxide (p2o5), and 2-3 pounds of sulfur.
These nutrients are released more during the Spring and Summer months. Therefore, you find healthier crops during these months than during winter.
2. Organic Soil Improves The Water Holding Capacity
When soil is rich with organic matter, it behaves like a sponge, absorbing and retaining water to about 90% of its weight in water. The most significant benefit is that all that water absorbed from the organic matter is released to feed the plants.
On the other hand, soil heavy with clay retains water, but that water is unavailable to the plants.
3. Organic Soil Improves The Soil Structure
Increasing the organic matter in the soil causes the soil to clump, thereby creating soil aggregates, which improves the soil structure. With the soil structure improved, this improves the permeability, which is the infiltration of water through the soil. Water infiltration will improve the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water.
4. Organic Soil Prevents Soil Erosion
Using a universal soil loss equation, scientists have found that increasing the organic matter in the soil between 1 to 3 percent decreases soil erosion by up to 30 %.
The reduced erosion can be attributed to the fact that water infiltration has increased and soil aggregate formation. Both are due to the organic matter in the soil.
5. Organic Soil Encourages You To Be More Environmentally Friendly
One of the best advantages of using organic soil is that the soil is free from artificial chemicals and other synthetic products. Organic soil is all-natural because it is made from the earth and goes back into it.
Over the years, due to construction, etc., the soil is no longer healthy enough to grow plants or veggies. Therefore, choosing organic soil to improve the quality of the soil is definitely the correct decision. For you, this means healthy plants, fruits, and vegetables that are safe not just for you but also for the environment.
For soil to be fully organic takes many years. Consider this, microorganisms and earthworms are munching on organic matter such as animal manure, paper, cardboard, and other organic products.
The conversion from organic matter to soil is an ongoing process, so do not expect quick results. However, making the soil more organic is a step in the right direction.
6. Organic Soils Save Time And Money
As mentioned elsewhere in the article, organic soil absorbs and retains water drastically. The absorption and retention of water, a vital element for every organism, impacts not just the environment, but it means the gardener or farmer saves on time and money.
Some years weather patterns are unpredictable. Farmers are no longer sure when the rains will come if they ever do! With organic soils’ natural ability to retain and absorb water, farmers and gardeners save on extensive watering and expensive watering systems.
7. Organic Soil Improves Plants Resistance To Pests
Due to organic soils being so rich in nutrients and minerals, these build up the plants’ cell walls, making them stronger. In this way, the plant builds up a natural resistance to pests and diseases.
With the plants’ natural defense system against pests and diseases made more substantial, it eliminates chemical pesticides. The fewer chemical and synthetic products used, the better for the environment.
8. Organic Soil Can Improve The “Native” Soil
When organic soil is added back into the garden, it impacts the “native” soil. Depending on the type of soil you have in your garden, throwing in some organic soil improves the quality of the soil.
Organic soil may improve all other soil types, from sandy to clay to silt. It takes the nutrient-deficient soil and turns it into a living ecosystem, which is excellent for your garden!
Adding organic matter to the soil dramatically improves soil quality and overall plant health. The organic matter in the soil contains vital nutrients and minerals, which help the soil absorb and retain water. These are a few reasons why organic soil is best. Let the earthworms tell you how you are doing!
Stacie @ Counting Tomatoes
Friday 30th of December 2022
Do you have a recommendation or source for where to buy earthworms? We're doing alot of cover crops lately, but I'd like to add worms to our native soil as well.
Friday 30th of December 2022
@Stacie @ Counting Tomatoes, I've purchased redworms for vermicomposting a few times but never earthworms for soil. My experience has always been that when the soil improves, earthworms just show up in abundance, so I've never had a need to add any. That being said, if I were going to buy them, I would probably just purchase them from a local fishing bait shop.