How to Add Organic Material to Soil


Whether your soil is clay, sand or loam, you can improve its overall structure and fertility by selectively adding organic material. Organic material consists of dead plant and animal matter; as a general rule of thumb, if it was alive at one time, then it counts as organic material and you should be able to add it to your soil. Your goal in adding these materials to your soil is to help them become organic matter, a humus-rich material that provides nutrients for your plants, prevents erosion and improves the ability of your soil to hold water. Sheet composting is one of the simplest ways you can add organic materials to your soil.

Step 1

Collect organic materials in a pile near the soil you're working with. Aim to gather equal amounts of high-nitrogen materials (typically green materials, such as fresh grass clippings, cow or horse manure, fruit waste and vegetable peels) and high-carbon materials (typically brown materials, such as dead leaves, straw, sawdust, cardboard and old hay).

Step 2

Prepare the soil for your organic material. Till your soil with a hoe or shovel, turning and loosening the top 3 to 4 inches of dirt.

Step 3

Shred any large chunks of organic material, such as cardboard, into smaller pieces, ideally less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Mix the materials thoroughly in your pile. Spread your organic materials across the surface of your soil in an even layer that is approximately 5 to 6 inches thick.

Step 4

Mix the organic material with your soil. Although you can use a rototiller, a shovel or hoe works just as effectively and minimizes potential soil impaction that may occur with a rototiller. Turn the soil and blend it thoroughly with the organic material.

Step 5

Mist the organic material with water from your garden hose. Leave the soil alone for at least six months to allow the organic material enough time to decompose sufficiently before planting time. Till the soil again before you begin planting.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic material
  • Hoe/shovel
  • Rototiller (optional)
  • Garden hose
  • Newspaper (optional)


  • The Samual Roberts Noble Foundation: What Does Organic Matter Do in Soil?
  • "Secrets to Great Soil;" Elizabeth Stell; 1998

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida: Producing Garden Vegetables with Organic Soil Amendments
Keywords: amending soil, adding organic matter, soil additives

About this Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A freelance copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. During her time with Demand Studios, Hennessy has produced content for Ehow, Answerbag and Travels. Hennessy graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.