What is Humic Acid?

Spend any time searching for information on how to improve your lawn’s soil these days and for sure you will come across recommendations for Humic acid and fulvic acid treatments. The old farmers secret to improving soil structure is now mainstream and available in many online stores (including ours of course!) in both granular and liquid forms in small enough doses for us DIYers to utilize effectively without breaking the bank.

I talk to a lot of sod growers here in Florida and they just laugh when I talk about the great results I’ve been getting since adding humic acid treatments to my overall lawn treatment strategy.

Adding Acid to Soil?

People get a little scared when they think about adding an “acid” to their lawn. They wonder if it’s going to burn something, but I promise you, humic acid isn’t going to harm your lawn or soil and in fact, is the secret to getting better results, faster from pretty much every other lawn application you do.
As far as the “acid” concern, think of humic acid more along the lines of orange juice (also acidic) for your soil. Everyone knows that OJ is good for you: it’s liquid sunshine and full of vitamins!

Humic acid is essentially the final remains of organic matter, primarily plant material, that has decayed over time, and broken down into its simplest form by microbes. If you think poop is organic, natural, and good for plants, then think of humic acid as microbe poop. Super small, super rich and super for your soil. (but no foul smell).

Humic acid is carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur and the only reason it’s an acid is because it’s a hydrogen-containing substance that is capable of donating a proton (hydrogen ion) to another substance. And that is what makes humic acid so awesome!

It is known as a “chelator” (pronounced Kee-Lay-Tor) which in layman’s terms just means that it helps other nutrients become more available to the plants to be utilized. Think of it like a bridge between nutrients and your turf’s roots. To put it simply, applying humic acid to your lawn and watering it into your soil helps the turf roots extract more of the naturally existing nutrients from the soil AND makes the fertilizer you apply more efficient.

If we were talking in automotive terms, it would be like adding a shot of nitrous to increase your speed.

What are the benefits of adding humic acid to your soil?

Incorporating humic acid applications into your lawn care schedule will:

  • Increases the water holding capacity of the soil.
  • Increases the nutrient holding capacity of the soil which in turn means more nutrients are available to your turf when it needs it instead of it leaching out.
  • Increases soil carbon which in turn increases the soil’s water holding capacity.
  • Chelates nutrients which makes them more readily available to the plant - unlocks nutrients.
  • Excites microbes which benefits soils and also improves nutrient exchange between the plant and the soil.

Is fulvic acid the same as humic acid?

Fulvic acid and humic acid are very similar. Humic acid, when looked at in its molecular form, is a little larger than fulvic acid and is better in alkaline soils whereas fulvic acids perform in both alkaline and acidic soils.

There isn’t really a need to go out and try to find one or the other separately and in fact, most humic containing lawn products contain both humic and fulvic acids. 99% of DIYers won’t need to go so far as to supplement with humic vs fulvic, just be sure one or the other, or both are listed on the label of the product you purchase.

Liquid or Granular Humic Acid?

Many folks ask which is better for the soil, granular or liquid humic. To keep it simple, liquid will be faster but not necessarily better. That’s because a liquid is essentially further broken down than a granule. In other words, liquids still contain particles but they are just super super small when compared to a granular humic substance where you can see the prills/grains in your hand.

Thing about it is, all of them need to be watered in so it will just take longer for the granular humic to break down and get into the soil whereas the liquid has a head start in that regard. But for sure, BOTH are good for the soil so get what you can! If you prefer to spread granular products then granular humic acid will work great for you. But if you like spraying liquids, then go that route and get a product that also has some micronutrients dissolved along with the humic so they both go down together.

How Much and How Often to Apply Humic Acid?

People will also ask if it’s possible to apply too much humic acid to the lawn and the answer is no. You won’t harm the lawn with too much humic acid but for sure, you will waste it. In other words, throwing down more than the labeled rate will not hurt anything, but it certainly is wasteful and expensive.

I’ve developed plans that allow for the maximum amount of humic acid to be applied during the year to get the best and fastest results without being wasteful. If you have the Bio-Stimulant Pack, you can apply one of those products every month following the label recommendations.

That pack has 4 products, each one a little different, but ALL of them have humic acid as the base carbon source. It’s a smart and fun way to get your humic added to the soil while also adding some additional trailing elements like micronutrients, sea kelp, or potassium hydroxide.

How Fast Can I See Results with Humic Acid?

The thing to keep in mind about humic acid is that it is NOT a fertilizer. Fertilizers are nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and iron. The nutrients produce a visual result in the color of the lawn directly. Nitrogen and iron especially, will turn your grass green.

Humic acid contains no nutrients in this regard but many folks will still see a visual result after an application or two. This isn’t because the humic acid is feeding the plant, but what it is doing is cheating nutrients from the soil that were just sitting there, unused. Applying the humic acid “unlocks'' those nutrients and brings a visual change to the color of the lawn. This doesn’t happen in every case because some soils just don’t have any nutrients (or much) in them, but many do; it's just those nutrients are locked up and the humic unlocks them, almost immediately.

Products that Contain Humic

My favorite humic acid product is the Humic12 from Greene County Fertilizer Co. If you just added only this product to your strategy, you’d get much better results and enrich your soil quickly. It contains 12% humic acid which is one of the highest concentrations available anywhere. You can get it as a part of the bio-stimulant pack or stand alone. Apply humic12 at 6 oz/1000 sq ft every month throughout the growing season. Water it in after you apply.

Another excellent choice is the EnviroPlex from Ecologel which tops the charts at 22% humic acid. You can also apply this one at 6oz/1000 sq ft every month during the growing season.