Organic matter in the landscape

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I often mention adding compost to flower beds to increase organic matter. I was recently reminded of the importance of doing this continuously and also checking lawns. Our soils are naturally very lean, ie they contain little organic matter. When organic matter is added to the soil, it is depleted relatively quickly due to our environment and the long growing season.

Two situations crept in on me that provided the reminder. First, I noticed several places where my lawn was thinning due to the growth of two cedar elms. Their sharing of water and nutrients with the grass has resulted in a depletion of organic matter in the soil. Unlike the flowerbeds, on which I spread compost, the grass was never covered with organic matter.

Second, while planting this spring, I found several other areas lacking organic matter as well. These are areas next to shrubs and/or trees that have sent their feeder roots into the friendlier garden area to steal nutrients. Over time, although I continually add compost to my beds, the roots had become more invasive and the organic matter was depleted more quickly than it would be if only annuals or perennials dipped into the bed nutrients.

Planting time is a good time to add organic matter. Many gardeners have their favorite amendments that they use when planting. Sometimes it’s commercial additives specially formulated to help give new plants a boost and sometimes it’s homemade compost. Either way, adding organic matter when planting is a great practice if not overdone. Plant roots need to grow into the surrounding soil, so too much organic matter added to the planting hole can encourage the roots to stay there by growing in a circle rather than in the original soil. It can kill a plant.

If you modify the soil regularly throughout the year or in the fall or winter, adding a small amount of organic matter only to the planting hole when you plant will cause very little disturbance to the soil and the network. soil trophic. This is good because it results in healthier soil throughout the bed, which translates to healthier plants growing in the soil. But some areas and/or plants will deplete nutrients and organic matter faster than others and require special attention accordingly, including lawn areas.

Organic matter can be added at any time of the year. If you have enough of it, it can also be used as mulch. I have three large compost piles that are currently filled with plant material to compost. Even these are not enough for my needs, so I sometimes supplement it with bought material.

In addition to the many good materials available at nurseries and garden centers, there are other products like composted cow manure and worm castings that are also available in bulk. All are great investments in the garden and help maximize the money and labor you have put into your landscape.

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