Organic Matter and Soil Fertility
May 18, 2009
Organic matter plays an important role in our gardens, says University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist Richard Hentschel.

He calls organic matter -- Mother Nature's slow release fertilizer.

Organic matter provides the soil with the right components to build the soil, something that inorganic fertilizers can't do. Organic matter also provides those other lesser-used nutrients called micro nutrients, think one-a-day vitamins for plants.

Organic matter also helps sandy soils hold more water and nutrients and will aid the ability of a heavy clay soil to drain excessive soil moisture by adding porosity. To be effective in supplying all the nutrients a plant will need, applications of organic matter need to be done annually.

Hentschel says that there are concerns today for our environment that gardeners don't overfertilize, increasing the chance of groundwater contamination or causing algae blooms in our retention ponds, streams and creeks. He recommends that gardeners have a soil test done to determine which nutrients if any need to be built up in our soils.