Importance of Healthy Soil
Healthy trees need healthy soil that is rich in nutrients, moisture and structure. In urban environments, soil does not always provide the necessities for healthy trees in the landscape. Compaction, lack of organic material, insufficient pore space, and other critical problems make a harsh environment for root systems. During construction, topsoil is scraped away, natural grades are changed, and the soil environment is radically altered. Additionally, grass is in fierce competition for available water and tends to absorb most of the moisture before it has a chance to reach the trees’ root systems.
Testing your Soil
How do you know if your soil is healthy? Start by testing the soil to see if it’s alkaline or acidic. You can hire an arborist to test the soil, but it’s not hard to do it yourself with a simple tester. Perhaps the best thing to do is send a soil sample to the local lab, because it will also make recommendations for amendments. If the soil is too alkaline, you can mix in some iron sulfate. If the soil is too acidic, you might need to add lime.
Adding Organic Matter
To improve the health of your soil, consider adding organic matter like compost or mulch. Organic matter breaks down over time to provide many nutrients needed by the tree. Organic matter provides a habitat for the required microorganisms, worms, and other living organisms. It is also necessary to have plenty of open-pore space within the soil for the storage of oxygen and water.
How do you enhance the soil surrounding your tree’s root system? Fortunately, there are new tools and procedures that allow arborists to do just that. The Air-Spade actually removes soil from the root systems without damaging the roots. Originally developed to safely uncover land mines, the Air-Spade has been proven in numerous university studies to safely blow soil from roots with a supersonic blast of air, without damaging the roots.
To improve the soil, weeds need to go. They fight for the same resources as tree roots. The best way to get rid of weeds is to pull them out by their roots. If you have a major weed problem or your soil is compacted and of poor quality, you may want to do something drastic and replace some of the soil. Remove the top six inches or so of soil, and replace it with new. If you have a small area to deal with, you can attempt this by hand. If you have a larger property, you may have to bring in big equipment to get the job done more efficiently. Adding mulch after weeding will also help to keep weeds away.
If you need help improving the quality of your soil, contact a Growing Earth certified arborist. We can do soil tests, use an Air-Spade, and give you advice on how to care for your soil and your trees.