OM is Your Gardens Guardian Angel

leaves collected in a fadge

Gathering organic matter (OM for short), is your best ever garden habit! With a variety of ready to use matter at hand, you are only 10minutes away from creating a new garden bed, mulching, making a compost pile or revitalising tired soil – no shopping required!

Collect OM in a little + often, regular way. While you’re out gathering, please obey foraging lore:

  • Be respectful. Choose stuff that’s regarded as waste or is in abundance, and be sure to leave plenty for natural cycles.
  • Be careful. Don’t gather ingredients with heavy metals or herbicide/ pesticide residue – that means roadsides are out as is OM from sprayed places. Lifeless brown edgings are the tell tale.

Most organic matter benefits from being left to decompose before using, some can be grown at home and a few are best used fresh – lets start there!

Gathered OM that’s best used fresh

seaweed beneath seed potatoes
Seaweed beneath seed potatoes

3 sources of OM that are best used fresh are grass clippings, seaweed + pond weed. All are awesome additions to your compost. Make compost on lawn mowing day!


Grass clippings make a great mulch. You can sprinkle them direct, as is, as long as your lawn is diverse and you let it grow long before cutting it. If, however your lawn is always cut short and never gets longer than 10cm, the clippings will need to be mixed with dry or stalky stuff (carbon), before using as mulch.


Mineral rich seaweed or pondweed make an epic liquid feed.
Seaweed is fab laid beneath seed potatoes at planting.
Both can be used direct in the garden – reap the benefits, by tucking them beneath the mulch:

Gathered OM that’s best decomposed before using

compost pile
Dot your piles of OM in your vegie garden border, and cover them if not in the shade

Manure, hay + straw, woodchip + fine prunings, sawdust, leaves and big stalks from corn, broccoli + sunflowers are all incredible sources of fertility when transformed by time and biology into a softer, more gooey version of themselves.

  • Dot piles of OM around the outside edges of your vegie patch to build life right where you need it and save legwork when the time comes to use it.
  • Pile direct on the earth, either in the semi shade or covered with sacks or carpet or some such.
  • File the piles by type eg: the manure pile beside woodchip pile – not mixed with, and this way you can easily access the thing you need.
  • Don’t pile near hardcore weeds like convulvulus or runner grass or under big trees – the roots will find their way in.


I’m not fussy about the type of manure I use (cow, chook, pig, horse), but I’m super fussy that the manure I use lived an organic life. Residues from herbicides, antibiotics and drenches are downright destructive, killing off all the beneficial soil life you’re carefully cultivating. If you don’t have your own animals or access to organic animals, dont worry about it. Better to not use manure. Grow lots of greencrops instead, they’ll do just as good a job of building your soil.

Decomposed manure provides a boost of minerals and biology, but it must be used sparingly or most of it is wasted, leaching into water tables. And besides, soil doesn’t need much, just a touch here and there.

Use it to:

  • side dress hungry feeders like broccoli or corn if they aren’t growing as strongly as you’d like. A small dollop beside each plant during the teenage phase, before they gear up to fruit
  • feed citrus or avocado
  • nourish your worms – rotten manure is their favourite bedding!
  • add to compost, though once again sparingly – make it no more than about 10% of your total compost pile


Rotten hay/ straw is an epic mulch for vegies and a brilliant compost ingredient, as long as it doesn’t contain herbicide, fungicide or pesticide residues.

While you wait for the rot down, put bales to good use:

  • as temporary shelter for vegies or young fruit trees
  • as insulating walls around a compost heap
  • to clear ground for new beds or trees – nothing grows beneath a haybale!

Don’t worry about them sprouting, simply flip them so the sprouts are underneath the bale.


Woodchip gets better with age – look for the fungal threads as proof of readiness! A fabulous material for paths and the very best mulch for fruit trees and berries.

Broken down small, fine prunings are also an awesome tree/ shrub mulch. They take a little longer to breakdown than woodchip, but don’t let that put you off piling them up! A super handy stash when you make compost – a bed of fine twigs at the base makes all the difference.


… takes ages to breakdown! Put it to use as mulched paths or in the chookhouse/ yard where it will mix with manure and other nitrogenous sources, greatly assisting the breakdown. Once dark, you can use it as mulch around shrubs or perennials.


… are mineral rich bombs of goodness! Not all leaves are made equal though. As a general rule, the softer leaves from deciduous trees are your garden go to’s. But don’t get too hung up with this rule. A mix is always good, and you’ll soon see which leaves break down and which don’t.

Contain them in a wire netting circle, somewhere shady in your vegie garden edge so you can occasionally spray them with the hose. Use them partially rotted down for mulching and fully rotted down, as a delicious addition to your homemade seed raising mix.


Unless you have a garden mulcher, chunky stalks are alot of effort to crush and make compost friendly, so, if like me, you cant be bothered, simply pile them up and leave them to transform into a useful resource.

Use the end product as cheats compost, add to the compost or anywhere your soil could do with improving.

Homegrown OM


Grow heaps of nourishing, vigorous herbs eg: yarrow, borage, comfrey, lemon balm, valerian – for an ongoing supply of mulch, liquid feed and compost ingredient. Choose herbs that grow easily at your place, and the ones you love and use.

Use your weeds! Weeds are brim full of minerals and goodness – recycle them in the same way you do your herbs – most of them are herbs after all.

Recycle foodscraps. It’s mad to throw foodscraps away – they’re such a good, diverse source of fertility! The options are many – a worm farm, your chooks, bokashi buckets, trench direct in the soil or a composting outfit who collects them – find a way!


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