Organic material is anything in the soil or on top of the soil that when left alone will slowly bio-degrade into a crumbly black material called “humus”. There are two essential sources of organic matter for your soil.
Dead Roots and Soil Critters
A significant portion of new organic material occurs under the surface of the soil as the roots of plants die, as earthworms die, and as all the other micro and macro soil critters die. As you add organic material that is incorporated into the soil, increasing the population of soil critters, those very same critters as they die begin to also supplement the organic content of a healthy soil. Healthy plants have more massive root systems. Healthy soil has an increasing number of earthworms and soil microbes. In a way, as the soil becomes more healthy, the higher the percentage of valuable organic amendment to the soil comes from within the soil.
Materials Provided By You
In order to develop a healthy soil alive with critters, we must kick start the process by adding organic stuff to the surface or sub-surface of our soil. We have lots of organic material produced in the home landscape that we routinely throw away. Things like leaves, grass clippings, pruned branches, and pulled weeds are all organic materials.
The easiest way to add organic material to your soil is to mulch your plants with that material. On the left are more detailed discussions about the most common types of organic materials available to us for mulch.
Organic Matter Solves Virtually All Other Soil Problems Over Time
As you will see in the discussions in this section about fixing soil problems, virtually every one is ultimately solved by continuing to add organic matter to your soil year in and year out; as long as you own your house. Many of the soil problems have some short term solutions, but in the long run, adding organic matter to your soil will eliminate virtually all problems and make sure they do not return.