The basis of organic land care is promoting healthy soil which translates into healthy plants. The objectives of promoting healthy soil include:
Soil is made up of 4 major components:
"We might regard the soil as the furnace of life, wherein organic matter is the fuel, soil organisms are the fire consuming the fuel, and the plant nutrients are the ashes of the combustion." Robert Barnes, Fertile Soil
The soil contains living organisms which make up the life of the soil. These organisms range from worms and insects to the tiniest of bacteria. The number of bacteria alone in 1 gram of soil may range from 100,000 to several billion!
It is the activity of these soil organisms, termed biological activity, that releases nutrients and makes them available for plant uptake. The biological activity starts with insects and earthworms shredding plant material and ends with the complete decomposition of the residues by the smallest of organisms such as bacteria and fungi. This decomposition process releases several nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, making them available for plant growth.
Soil organisms perform other important functions including:
To achieve optimal biological activity, soils need to be warm and have adequate moisture, drainage, and a pH above 6.
The first step for transitioning to organic should be to have the soil tested. No soil inputs should be made without a soil test which will contain information about soil nutrients, pH, composition, and the amount of organic matter. Soil test kits can be purchased through your local Cooperative Extension office or you can download instructions for testing your soil from the Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory website.
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