Types of Organic Matter

Types of Organic Matter

Autumn leaves (low/no nutrients)

types of organic matter - autumn leaves Use as a soil conditioner, an attractive mulch, for weed control and in growing media. Make into leafmould before use. Use almost anywhere, especially to improve seedbeds. Apply at any time of year.

Sources: home garden; parks; cemeteries; streets in quiet neighbourhoods. Leaves collected from the side of busy roads may contain lead and other pollutants.


Bark, shredded (low/no nutrients)

Use bark as a soil conditioner, a decorative mulch, for controlling weeds and also in growing media.

Fine-grade bark can be dug in or applied as a mulch wherever soil improvement is required. Coarser grades should be used as a mulch only, around shrubs and other perennials.

Sources: proprietary garden products. Avoid products where nitrogen fertilizers have been used in processing.


Cocoa shells (nutrient-rich)

This provides plant foods as well as acting as a short-term weed control and soil conditioner. Use in most situations in the garden.

Sources: proprietary garden products. May contain residues of pesticides used in growing the cocoa beans.


Coir (coconut fibre) (low/no nutrients)

Use as an ingredient in growing media. Coir is suitable for use on acid-loving plants (pH 5.5-6.3).

Sources: proprietary garden products. Because it is imported from Sri Lanka, it should be used only where more local products are not available.


Compost, garden (nutrient-rich)

Use to feed and condition the soil, and also in growing media.

Use on all soils and plants where feeding is required. Mulch or dig in at one wheelbarrow load per 3—4sq m (3-½ — 4-3/4sq yd).

Sources: home garden; proprietary garden products.


Compost, spent mushroom (nutrient-rich)

Use to provide plant foods, to condition the soil and as a general mulch.

Stack mushroom compost under cover for several months before use, unless it is from organic sources. It can have a high pH and so is not advisable for use on acid-loving plants. Sources: mushroom farms and proprietary garden products.


Compost, worm (nutrient-rich)

This is a rich source of plant foods and a useful potting compost ingredient; it also acts as a soil conditioner. It may be used wherever feeding is required, and is particularly useful for top-dressing pots, planters and hanging baskets. Sprinkle thinly and mix into the top few centimetres of soil.

Sources: home-made; proprietary products.


Green garden waste, excluding lawn mowings and prunings (nutrient-rich)

This material will vary in its value as a soil conditioner and a source of plant foods. It is best composted before use, but may be left as a surface mulch if not diseased.

Sources: home garden; other people’s gardens.


Lawn mowings (nutrient-rich)

Lawn mowings are a rich source of quickly available nitrogen, a compost activator and a short-term mulch, and will control weeds if spread over newspaper.

Wherever possible, leave mowings on the lawn to feed the grass. Otherwise, process them through a compost heap or use them fresh, added to potato-planting trenches. They can also be used as a short-term feeding and moisture-retaining mulch. Do not apply a thick layer around young plants.

Sources: home garden; other people’s gardens.

CAUTION: Never use lawn mowings from the subsequent two cuts of a lawn that has been treated with weedkiller because the mowings may harm plants.


Manures, poultry (nutrient-rich)

These include chicken and pigeon manures. They are a rich source of plant foods. Use as a soil conditioner, to provide plant foods and, when fresh, as a compost activator.

Always compost these manures before use. If they are not already mixed with bedding material, mix them with straw or add to a general compost heap.

Sources: pigeon lofts; farms; proprietary garden products. Do not use chicken manure from intensive farms as it can be polluted with zinc and antibiotics.


Prunings, woody (low/no nutrients)

Woody prunings are best shredded before they are used. They can then be used directly on soil or paths, or left in a heap to mature. This will darken the colour of the prunings and is likely to kill any diseases present.

Use for general mulching and weed control around trees, shrubs and other perennial plants, where they are not likely to be dug in. Sources: home garden; other peoples gardens; proprietary products.


Sawdust/wood shavings (low/no nutrients)

Use as a mulch. Unless they are to be used on paths and other non-growing areas, sawdust and wood shavings must be left in the open to weather for a year or more before use.

Use sawdust and wood shavings only on perennial beds where soil is fertile and unlikely to be disturbed. They can cause severe nitrogen robbery if they are incorporated into the soil, unless they are very old.

Sources: wood yard; saw mill. All sawdust and wood shavings must be from wood that has not been treated with preservatives.


Seaweed (nutrient-rich)

Seaweed provides plant foods, especially potassium and trace elements. It also helps to acti- vate a compost heap and improve soil conditions. It may be used fresh or composted, dug in or applied as a mulch.

Sources: pick up from unpolluted beaches below the tide line. Do not collect old, dry seaweed as this could be very salty. Never take growing seaweed from rocks.


Straw (low/no nutrients) and hay (nutrient-rich)

Both straw and hay will help to condition soil. They can be used as mulches and will give some weed control. Hay also contains useful levels of plant foods; straw is less rich. They can also be added to a compost heap.

Store for several months if newly harvested from non-organic sources. Use anywhere except round young plants that are susceptible to slugs. They are particularly useful around fruit bushes, where appearance is less critical. Hay can be used to supply all the foods needed by plants such as raspberries.

Sources: farms; stables; wildlife trusts. If the straw has been treated with a hormone weedkiller, do not use around tomatoes.


Vegetable waste (nutrient-rich)

Make into compost or worm compost before use, or add to a compost trench.

Sources: home garden; kitchen; local markets; greengrocers.

29. January 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Manures and Fertilisers, Organic Gardening, Soil Cultivation | Tags: , | Comments Off on Types of Organic Matter

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