Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Word on Humus and Compost.

These terms are used so often, yet the meaning of them and differences between them are generally not very well understood so here is a short post that "was" intended to provide some clarity.

Compost is the intentional accumulation and placement of organic matter, the aim being to accelerate the decaying process. The intentional part is important. Dead stuff on the ground is NOT compost, just decaying organic matter. It is the controlled, or semi-controlled conditions that make it compost.
  • Compost, even if mature, is still breaking down and supplying nutrients. When applied in your garden it has the immediate effect of adding nutrients available to plants and bacterial components that contribute to a healthy soil food web. As the seasons progress and decay continues, it eventually converts to humus.



Humus is supposed to be a stable organic component, the result of the decay of organic matter whether that be natural decay or, as we see above, decay during composting.
  • Humus being stable cannot be penetrated by microbes and is greatly resistant to further decomposition. Thus stable humus adds few readily available nutrients to the soil, but plays an essential part in providing its physical structure.
  • Humus improves soil structure (and texture) and has remarkable water retentive properties. 
  • Humus  has a high cation exchange capacity (CEC), which means it acts as a storehouse for plant nutrients not allowing them to wash away (leach) from the soil with the water passing through the soil. High CEC is why humus is regarded as being fertile.  




Since writing this post it has come to light there is a debate regarding the existence of humus. Humus may be extinct.

Needless to worry it's still super easy to build great soil.
  • Add plenty of organic matter to the soil via chop and drop mulching, manures and composts 
  • Keep soils inhabited with diverse communities of living plants at all times and mow and prune these plants to encourage root shed that add to the soil organic matter. 
  • Avoid any compaction to the soils you are cultivating - by foot or machine. 
  • Keep soils well hydrated - like a moist sponge is perfect 
  • Don't waste your money on nasty products such as Roundup


Live Webinar Coming up this Autumn


It's that time of year to start planning your garden plantings for this coming autumn or the spring. If you would like some guidance and advice on how to choose your plants we'll be running a live webinar this November.  How to Select Fruit and Nut Trees for your Forest Garden/Polyculture Orchard - Webinar - 2nd November 2019 - 18.00 -20.00 UTC. (starting time suitable for US participation).


The session will overview what you need to know when selecting fruit and nut trees for your Forest Garden/Polyculture Orchard and how to plan the layout of the garden. It will be around 2 hours long and will include:


Selecting trees that suit your climate and location
Choosing the right root stock and cultivar
Selecting trees with pollination compatibility

Choosing the right location and spacing for your trees
Buying Fruit and Nut Trees
Planting out and aftercare
Software for Planning Garden layout
Closing Questions and Answers 
Access to design spreadsheets including a Selection Check List and  Pollination Requirements for Common Fruit and Nut Trees


You can register here . The fee is €30 or €40 if you register as a group of three or €100 as a group of 10. If you would like to register as a group please send an email to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com and we'll take it from there.



Upcoming Courses

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience come and join us this autumn. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and wildlife ponds. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

Design and Build - Forest Garden Course  - Regenerative Landscape Design Course


Registration for our April 2020 course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).


If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.





Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 



This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom on a range of topics. You can register for a  webinar here.


Would you like to be involved in the project? We are currently offering 1 - 6 month positions on our polyculture study.


Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships 

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March.

We also offer a range of products all year round from our Online Store 

Give a happy plant a happy home :)