In this comprehensive guide, we take a look at this environmentally-friendly alternative, its creation and composition, and analyze the roles of both compost and amendments in aiding the organic process and optimizing its purpose.
Organic soil is composed primarily of plant material, and is therefore better able to cultivate plant life than its non-organic alternatives. It is naturally amended by the decomposition of plants and animals, which greatly increases the soil nutrient content. This makes it less likely to become packed down, which in turn, improves soil drainage. It has also been known to deter pest infestations.
It is typically classified by the size of its inorganic soil particles—sand, large; silt, medium; and clay, small. These proportions determine the texture of the soil, as well as the level of nutrients present and degree of drainage capability.
The organic matter can vary, but generally includes the partially decomposed remains of soil organisms and plant life—lichens and mosses, grasses and leaves, trees, and all manner of vegetative matter.
Though organic content comprises just 5-10% of soil, it is by far the most essential component, binding soil particles while simultaneously allowing air and water to move through freely.
Organic soil is innately equipped to retain moisture, and as such, is better able to absorb and store nutrients, while also serving as food for microorganisms and other forms of soil life. These tiny organisms, in combination with soil fauna, enzymes and fungi, collaborate in transforming organic matter into compost, relying on a delicate balance of carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen.
Brown compost is made up of high-carbon materials such as corncobs and stalks, paper, pine needles, sawdust or wood shavings, straw, vegetable stalks, and dry leaves.
Green compost, by contrast, contains high-nitrogen materials such as coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit wastes, grass clippings, feathers or hair, fresh leaves, seaweed, kitchen scraps, fresh weeds, rotted manure, and alfalfa meal.
Organic soil can be further broken down into active matter—detritus—which can include living microbial biomass, versus stable matter—humus, which often contains plant residues. Its physical benefits range from improving water filtration and soil aeration to reducing the stickiness of clay soils and subsequent surface crusting.
Digging further into the chemical benefits, organic soil has demonstrated increased resistance to changes in pH, ultimately aiding the soil’s ability to hold onto essential nutrients.
Biologically speaking, by providing food for living organisms, organic soil enhances both biodiversity and activity, resulting in increased pore space.
The buildup of stable organic matter is dependent upon factors including soil temperature, precipitation and soil moisture holding capacity, soil type and drainage class, existing microbial community, soil fertility status and soil pH, all components which can be customized with the proper research and application.
Compost, by definition, is a mixture of decayed or decaying matter, for use within the soil. It is typically made by gathering plant materials—leaves, grass clippings, vegetable peels—into a pile or bin and allowing it to decompose over time, creating humus.
This can result in an unpredictable substance, within which the pH can vary drastically, depending upon the makeup. If composting is not done properly, pathogens, insects, and bad bacteria may remain. This can result in the absorption of all organic carbon, leaving microbes—which allow plants to access beneficial nutrients, increasing growth and yield—to starve and die.
Organic soil, by contrast, is ready for planting, and consists of a blend of both mineral and organic matters tailored to each type of plant. This customization makes it possible for air to circulate within the soil mix, roots to develop easily, moisture to be retained, and nutrients to be channeled to the roots. Compost, at its best, functions as a means to enrich this soil with microorganisms, mineral elements and humus. It helps to restructure and boost the soil ecosystem, ultimately increasing plant growth.
In certain instances, organic soil amendments may be necessary to improve its structure so it’s better able to hold oxygen, retain necessary moisture, and provide adequate drainage. Building an ideal soil product involves breaking down clay, building up sand, and tweaking levels to settle on an ideal pH needed to facilitate the type of growth needed for the setting in question.
To provide the necessary nutrients, amendments such as alfalfa meal, azomite, blood meal, bone meal, chicken manure, coconut coir, compost, greensand, gypsum, kelp meal, dolomite lime, rock dust, rock phosphate, shellfish meal, sulfer, sul-po-mag, and worm castings may be added. These supplements serve to improve the overall structure by increasing the organic content, while supplying and encouraging microbes that will stimulate the health and growth of plants.
To start, seedlings raised without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides present the best options. Farmer’s market produce is a great place to start, zeroing in on plants with few blooms. It’s imperative to select plants that will thrive in your specific micro-conditions. Popular candidates include coriander, dill, lupine, sweet peas, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans, zucchini, swiss chard, and snow peas/sugar snaps.
When planting, it’s recommended to group vegetables and cutting flowers in raised beds that are unlikely to be tread upon. This reduces the need for weeding, as well as cuts down on water waste, helping to target the compost and nutrients. Generally speaking, most vegetables grow best in soil that is slightly acidic, between 6.0 and 7.0 on the pH scale, as more nutrients are available within that range.
Flowering plants such as black-eyed susans, daisies, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers, zinnia, poppies, phlox, larkspur, and morning glories can aid in helping to pollinate the vegetables, further enhancing the symbiotic nature of the organic garden.
While organic soil tends to be more expensive than conventional soil, its benefits are undeniable.
Some gardeners prefer to build their own, using organic compost, manure, and other ingredients. On occasion, regional garden suppliers have been known to conduct sales following instances of contamination, plant disease, flooding, and other natural disasters.
manufactures organic compost, soil and mulch for distribution at local retail outlets, as well as wholesale distributors, using organic ingredients and virgin forest materials, which help to maintain a healthy environment. Available lines of soil include the LIC brand, as well as Hamptons Estate and Great Gardens.
Long Island Compost also works closely with landscape architects, soil scientists, golf course superintendents, and general contractors to specially craft soil mixes which accommodate their unique requirements, while also meeting all German FLL guidelines. Long Island Compost handles 100% of the process in-house, packaging, storing and delivering these custom-designed combinations around their customers’ respective schedules. Each job features an on-site delivery coordinator, who provides unparalleled service and expertise.
Founded by the Vigliotti family more than 30 years ago, Long Island Compost currently houses the nation’s largest yard-waste drop-off facility, in Westbury, NY, in addition to a 62-acre facility in Yaphank. There, they recycle hundreds of thousands of tons of leaves, grass clippings, and other landscape-related materials—just one way in which the company is developing organic, Earth-friendly solutions to the region’s environmental challenges.
More than 2,000 landscaping companies drop off organic materials at these sites, which are then transformed into compost and harvested. These mixtures are manufactured into more than 5 million bags of soil products, which are then distributed to hundreds of local garden and home centers, eliminating the need for trucking, yet another environmental benefit.
For more information on organic soil, please contact Long Island Compost today.
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