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How to Balance Nutrient Ratios in your Soil

One of the most important things to adhere to in organic gardening is the soil fertility. Soil fertility is dependent on balancing of nutrient ratios using organic minerals. Normally, healthy soil is made up of perfect balance of minerals, oxygen, and organisms. However, most times, as you continue to planting in your organic garden especially without involvement of crop rotation, one or more nutrients will reduce in the soil leading to nutrient deficiency. The role and value of crop rotation in reduction of weeds has been discussed in depth in most articles. In cases, where weeds still persist, they can be used as food for pets, therefore, consider investing in great rabbit hutch plans needed to build an outdoor hutch with a good feeding area for your rabbit.

Some of the most important minerals in soil include Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Sodium (Na), and Potassium (K). The soil also needs micronutrients such as Boron, Iron, Copper, Zinc, and manganese. In most cases, N, P, & K lack in soils as the other components such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are available in the air. I know you are wondering, isn’t Nitrogen the largest component of air? The answer is yes, but the soil requires special nitrogen fixation bacteria to take the N from air and convert it to a component that plants can easily access in soil. More roles of pests and microorganism in organic gardens covered including the use of a wasp trap and the building of a grand bug hotel to control unwanted pests while encouraging beneficial insects. Soil fertility is dependent in the balanced ratios of trace elements, macro-, and microelements. One of the most important ratios is the carbon to nitrogen ratio as the two components are paramount to release of energy and the crop yield.

All organic matter is made up of substantial amounts of carbon (C) combined with lesser amounts of nitrogen (N). The balance of these two elements in an organism is called the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C: N ratio). For best performance, the compost pile, or more to the point the composting microorganisms, require the correct proportion of carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein production. Scientists (yes, there are compost scientists) have determined that the fastest way to produce fertile, sweet-smelling compost is to maintain a C: N ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, or 25-30:1. If the C: N ratio is too high (excess carbon), decomposition slows down. If the C: N ratio is too low (excess nitrogen) you will end up with a stinky pile.
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The ratio is maintained by the use of organic fertilizers such as compost and green manures. In fact, currently a new trend involves the use of a mineral rich concoction called the compost tea. Further details on the differences and roles of compost and green manures, read here. The organic fertilizer is formed by adhering to the following conditions:

1. A maximum of 35% of the carbon in fresh organic material will be converted into soil humus IF there is sufficient nitrogen present.

2. A minimum of 65% of the carbon in fresh organic material will be given off to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide due to microbial respiration. An argument could be made that composting contributes to greenhouse gases and warming of the Earth's atmosphere. However, consider this, nature is always decomposing everywhere; so, what you are doing in your little compost bin is a mere iota of carbon release compared to nature's vast compost bin in forests, rangeland, etc.)

3. The humus formed from the decomposition of fresh organic material will contain approximately 50% carbon and 5% nitrogen. In other words, the C: N ratio of the humus is 10:1.

4. Most fresh plant material contains 40% carbon. The C: N ratio varies because of differences in nitrogen content, not carbon content. (Note: Dry materials are generally in the range of 40 to 50 percent carbon, and sloppy, wet materials are generally 10 to 20 percent carbon. Therefore, the most important factor in estimating the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of plant or food waste is how much water is present).

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