Tarrant County Master Gardener Association
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Serious about Soil
By Charlie Shiner, Master Gardener - Compost Specialist

As Master Gardeners we should be aware that the condition of our soil is vital to the healthy growth of our plants. In general, soil consists of organic matter (derived from living organisms), mineral matter (inorganic), water, and air. Organic and mineral matters are the solids in the soil and may occupy up to 75% of the total soil volume.


Organic matter is crucial to plant growth because it:


  1. Contains nutrients and releases them at a rate that your plant needs them, thereby promoting optimum growth.
  2. Binds with the mineral matter to form small aggregates which improve soil texture and structure.
  3. Aids sandy soil by absorbing and retaining water that otherwise would wash through leaching out nutrients.
  4. Aids clay soil by loosening compaction and providing increased air capacity.
  5. Acts as an inoculant, adding microorganisms and attracting larger creatures, like earthworms and insects, which are nature’s soil builders.
  6. Acts as a buffer against toxins in the soil.
  7. Retards soil erosion.


Natural plant growth uses up this organic material; therefore, it is important that it be replaced to insure proper soil maintenance. Nature has been taking care of this rebuilding process since the beginning of life on Earth by decaying any living organism that dies and falls to the ground. The result of this decomposition (compost) returns to the soil most of the nutrients that the living organism contained.


All of life is part of a continuing pattern that should not be interrupted. As human beings we reap things from the land, and giving back to the land is every bit as vital as taking from it. Compost is nature’s best continuing effort to rebuild fertile, productive soil. Before the growth of civilization in Texas, the organic content of our topsoil was estimated to amount to about 20%. Today that organic content amounts to only ½ of 1% to 3%. We may never be able to offset the damage we have done to the soil and replace all that we have taken from it – but it’s not too late to try to make amends.


Stay tuned for further information on Compost!

NATURE RECYCLES  (First in a Three-part Series)