Is it Humus or Hummus?
One makes your plants happy...the other makes your belly happy
You have most likely heard the saying, "You are what you eat." The healthier you feed your body, the better it performs for you.
The same is true for your soil. The healthier you feed it, the better your plants will perform. The more fertile it is, the more successful your landscape will be. And one of the best ways to improve soil fertility is to feed it organic matter.
What is Organic Matter?
Healthy, fertile soil is a combination of water, air, organic matter, and nutrient minerals. Since we know what water and air are, let's focus on organic matter and nutrient minerals.
Organic matter comes from decomposing plant and animal materials. When plants drop their leaves and limbs to the ground, it becomes what's called leaf litter. When animals die, their remains add to this litter. As time passes and the litter breaks down and decomposing, it's known as organic matter.
Organic Matter and Carbon
Scientists have been studying the benefits of organic materials for decades. They found that adding organic matter to the soil adds necessary carbon. Carbon is an essential component for all life - human and plant alike.
Carbon is critical to soil function and is vital for healthy soil conditions. Higher levels of organic carbon improve aeration, water retention, and drainage.
Five Benefits of High Carbon Organic Material
Adding organic matter rich in organic carbon has several benefits:
- It allows water and oxygen to reach and feed plant roots.
- By allowing excess water to drain, organic material prevents vital nutrients from leaching out of the soil.
- Adding organic matter to the soil promotes healthy bacteria, which in turn promotes healthy plants.
- As plants in our landscape grow and demand more nutrients, the added organic matter provides the necessary plant food to support sustained growth.
- Research also shows that by fortifying the soil with organic materials, the severity of diseases due to deficiencies is decreased. In other words, the hardiness of plantings increases due to various soil microorganisms.
What is Humus
Organic matter is the name for a plant and animal when it is in the process of decomposing. It's called humus when it has completely decomposed. It is the thick brown or black matter that remains after the decomposition is complete.
Humus contains many nutrient minerals that improves the health and fertility of the soil. Carbon is critical for healthy soil conditions, and humus is roughly 60 percent carbon.
There are six additional essential nutrients that plants need in their soil: phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, and nitrogen. Nitrogen is one of the most important of the six as it is key for most plants.
When the leaf litter decays and becomes organic matter, it breaks down into these basic chemical nutrients. When the decomposition process has finished, the nutrients remain in the humus. These chemical nutrients are important for the soil, as well as the organisms and plants that feed off of it.
Humus also plays an important role in the structure of the soil. Ideal soil includes humus and has a granular, crumbly structure. This allows oxygen and carbon to move throughout the soil and feed the plant roots.
Clay is very compacted with minimal space between mineral particles. By adding humus, it loosens the soil, adding space between the particles and gives it that crumbly texture. In sandy conditions, humus helps maintain moisture levels and allows water to penetrate down to the roots while draining excess water so as not to drown the roots and strip away critical nutrients from the ground.
When to Add Organic Matter to the Soil
In summary, organic matter is vital to the health and fertility of your soil. It is vital to the well-being and beauty of your commercial landscape. That's why, at Brightview, we enhance the soil by adding organic matter year-round.