The secret to whole soils and natural gardens is simple. It all comes down to soil organic matter.

What is soil organic matter?

It’s everything living, dead, almost dead, once living, and very, very dead in the soil. It’s the glue that holds the little pieces of broken down rock together. It’s the difference between your beautiful garden and a barren Martian landscape. It’s the secret of life.

Why does soil organic, matter?

Soils are alive. That means they need food, water, shelter, and air to thrive. The magic is that soil organic matter provides all of these things. It makes your garden into a sponge that holds onto the water and nutrients your plants and soil bugs need. It makes your soils fluffy and light so all those lifeforms can breathe and roots can grow deep. On a fundamental level, it is soil food – the raw stuff that soil bugs break down to feed themselves and the vegetables, flowers, and trees they grow.

How to grow soil organic matter?

The good news is that soil organic matter is a fundamental part of your natural garden system. Our job is just to keep it there. How? For a whole soil garden to grow, we look at the whole system from a soil organic matter perspective. The whole soil revolution is to see that organic matter isn’t just something we add to soil, it’s a natural part of the soil that we keep, grow, and maintain by working smarter, instead of harder.

How to Grow, Add, or Keep Organic Matter

  1. Keep It – return leaves, plant residues, and grass clippings to the soil, instead of hauling them away
  2. Grow It – grow cover crops, green manures, and bountiful gardens that supply organic matter through roots and shoots. Plant legumes to feed soils nitrogen. Make sure gardens have enough fertility and water to grow their own organic matter – healthy plants and bugs return to the soil to feed the soil
  3. Protect It – use no-till, mulches, and soil conservation to keep from losing organic matter to wind, water, and degradation.
  4.  Add It – add organic matter using compost, manures, tree prunings, and other resources that are found in your whole garden system.