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Frequently as gardeners we concentrate efforts on our plants, focusing on what varieties will give us the best tasting produce or a beautiful landscape. However, I encourage all gardeners to “dig” a little deeper and concentrate some of our efforts on the soil.
In the spirit of getting our hands dirty, let’s dig into carbon and soil organic matter.
What is carbon? Carbon gets a reputation as being bad for us and the environment. While that is true for increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, carbon is necessary as a building block for life on earth.
Carbon is used to build cell tissues and for metabolic (energy-producing) reactions. It is used in cell membranes, is a component of fats and waxes and is in carbohydrates which make sugars and starches. Sugars can be connected to form larger compounds like cellulose and lignin which give plants their sturdy structure. Plants use starch to store energy for future needs. Squash and potatoes are great examples of starchy vegetables.
Once carbon from plants or animals has been incorporated into the soil by human activities (like tillage), by animal movement (like earthworms) or by plant roots dying, it becomes soil organic matter. There are two main pools of soil organic matter: active and passive.
Read the full story in your Monday, April 25th Times-Record online edition. Purchase your online copy by clicking subscribe in the top left corner of the www.times-online.com home page.
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