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Organic matter is very important to successful plant growth. At least 2 percent organic matter should be present for growing lawn grasses. Other garden plants will thrive in a soil with about 5 percent organic matter. To add this organic matter spread 1 to 3 inches of peat, compost or well-rotted manure over the soil when other nutrients are added. All these should then be worked to a depth of about 6 inches into the existing soil. Surface applications of organic matter do not provide the soil aeration, moisture regulation and deep root penetration that is possible when organic matter is mixed deep into the soil.