Using Humus to Improve Soil Organically

Your soil needs humus

To convert leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps into humus, you’ll need to begin composting

Humus is the life of your soil. Without it, soil is inactive and unable to produce plants, grass or flowers. Humus is the loose, crumbly material that results from the decay of organic matter — leaves, grass clippings, garden waste, peatmoss, spanish moss, kitchen scraps, or any such material.

Humus is important because it retains moisture in the soil, loosens the soil permitting better aeration and drainage, and encourages the increase of soil organisms which help make nutrients available to plants. It adds body to light soil and loosens heavy, sticky soils.

In the past, humus was assured in soil by the addition of barnyard manures. Since you probably don’t live on a farm or have a horse, cow or goat, it is important to make your own humus through the process of composting.

Garden wastes in the form of compost are a source of humus that most gardeners fail to use, even though it is easy and effective to do so. Nearly every garden has room for a compost bin hidden by shrubbery or even a compost pile hidden somewhere in the yard. Here, leaves, grass clippings, weeds, spent flowers and vegetable plants and even vegetable waste from the kitchen may be thrown into a compost heap.

If you are using a pile, it can reach a height of 4 or 5 feet, but keep the top flat or indented so that it catches rainwater and stays moist enough to continue breaking down. If the season is dry, you can wet the pile now and then with the hose.

You can speed up the process of composting by turning your compost pile, or tumbling your compost bin. When the compost is loose and crumbly and the materials that went into it have lost their identity, then the compost is ready to go in your soil.

The time to make compost varies with the materials used, the weather, the amount of stirring and other factors. Once you have finished compost, spread it 1 or 2 inches thick over your soil and work it in thoroughly. You’ll be amazed at how much better your plants will grow.

Looking for information on composting? Visit our main page and see everything else we have to say about the subject.

What about compost tumblers?

Browse compost bins and other lawn and garden supplies at Clean Air Gardening.

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