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What is Humus?

Humus-SoilThis is an interesting question, as humus is often confused with compost. However, the truth is that the two are very different. Humus is actually part of soil, it is an organic component in the soil that is non-cellular but that lasts much longer than the soil itself. Humus is made of chemicals that contain lots of carbon, but they contain no nitrogen, are very stable, and thus are very hard for microorganisms to break down. Humus doesn’t get broken down, but it just remains in the soil for a long, long time.

Compost is basically decaying organic matter. All matter begins the decomposition process the minute that it dies, but compost is basically matter that is set to decompose and is watched. Humus is found in compost at every stage, but compost is organic matter that is slowly breaking down.

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Humus doesn’t provide any nourishment to the soil, and yet it is able to store all kinds of nutrients and water. It is excellent for the soil because it absorbs water and minerals, and it slowly releases them over time as the soil demands it. If soil tends to have the consistency of clay, humus actually improves the soil condition by making it much more aerated and easier to crumble.

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The humus in the soil is actually completely stable, meaning that it won’t be broken down any further. Any organic matter in the soil that is cellular is constantly being broken down and decaying, but humus won’t be broken down any further due to the fact that it is non-cellular. This means that it actually helps to stabilize the soil.

If your soil is very dry, add some humus to it in order to promote the storage of water for the plants you are trying to grow. The same is true if your soil is low in nutrients, as the humus will store nutrients and release them as the plants need them, thereby improving the condition of the top soil immensely.

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