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Organic Vegetable Gardening 15

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The soil is a biologically active and dynamic resource, providing plants with mineral nutrients, water and oxygen. Organic matter — living organisms, fresh residues and decomposed residues is an essential ingredient in fertile and healthy soils. Organic matter improves soil tilth while preventing soil compaction and crusting. Soils low in organic matter often crust or seal over after a heavy rain, which prevents water and oxygen infiltration to the root system of growing vegetables. Organic matter slows soil erosion and provides a favorable environment for earthworms and beneficial microorganisms. Carbon dioxide from decaying organic matter brings minerals of the soil into solution, making them available to growing plants. The target level for organic matter in healthy soil is 3 to 5 percent. Potential crop yield could increase by about 12 percent for every 1 percent increase in organic matter.

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