How To Transform Organic Matter Into Humus Soil
Humus soil is created by organic material being decomposed by bacteria, fungi and oxygen. The process of transforming plant waste, fish remains, and other organic matter into humus soil is not a difficult process, and there is little to compare with the benefits of composting for use in organic gardening.
Step 1: Understanding Composting
Organic matter breaks down, or decomposes, into plant nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon, along with many other micro and macro nutrients. By adding fresh material and mixing the compost frequently, oxygen is mixed into the compost, fueling the growth of bacteria and fungus. These microorganisms speed up the decomposition, and produce other plant nutrients, as well as enzymes that help roots absorb nutrients. Other microorganisms that grow well in compost are efficient in preventing plant disease and reducing the number of pathogens in the soil. The living nature of compost is necessary for ongoing soil health.
Step 2: What Materials are Composted?
Old flowers, pulled weeds, and grass clippings can be collected outside and added to the compost. In the kitchen, everything from coffee grounds to fish scales and entrails can be used in compost, including vegetable waste, moldy bread, and other food scraps. Humus is made with organic materials, so any waste produced from preparing meals is likely to be good for compost. The key is to only use organic material, never metal, plastic, or glass. On the other hand, bits of rust which form on metal surfaces can be added to compost, and will increase the iron levels in the soil. To add bulk and density to the soil, old newspapers may be shredded and mixed in. Never add plant material that has been exposed to pesticides or herbicides, to avoid contaminating the compost.
Step 3: Mixing Compost
To mix compost, use a pitchfork and turn the entire pile. It is important that the fresh material mixed in with existing compost to increase the rate of decomposition. To add mineral content, mix clay soils into the compost at a rate of about 1 shovelful every 60 to 90 days, depending on how frequently new material is added. Before applying compost to soil, strain it through wire mesh or even chicken wire to remove plant material that has not yet decomposed.
Step 4: Special Additives
Soil fertility and vitality can be enhanced by adding special ingredients, such as rock dust, saw dust, or even sand. To increase the acidity of soil, use a mixture of 1 part ammonia and 4 parts waters, and moisten the compost. To decrease the acidity of the humus, add 1 cup of gypsum or lime. Ideally, humus should have a pH level between 6.2 and 6.8, but use patience in treating it as effective treatments may not show immediate results.
Step 5: How to Use Humus
The soil produced by composting can be used as the primary soil for potted plants and planters, or it can be used in various soil types to increase vitality. In a rooting bed for cuttings, mix 4 parts humus or compost with 1 part sand for a fluffy, nutrient-rich starter base. For sandy and clay soils, humus can be added as needed to enhance the soil fertility.