The dish on dirt: why soil is important to tree health

Have you ever planted multiple trees or shrubs at the same time and noticed one variety flourishing while the other has no progress? There are numerous factors that could be affecting your plant health, including soil. It’s not uncommon to overlook soil care while planting if you’re new to the green scene. We become so caught up with tree care above ground that we forget what’s happening below is just as important. Since trees grow from the ground up, it’s essential to understand their relationship with soil and the role soil plays on tree health. Using the wrong type of soil, or neglecting to use healthy soil altogether, can be detrimental and cost you your trees.

What works for your pink dogwood trees won’t necessarily work for your blueberry bushes. You see, each tree calls for a different soil type, the most common being sandy, silt, and clay. landsoils1[1]Soils vary from one location to the next. When high-quality soil isn’t present you can mix soils to change textures and create a soil more suitable for planting. Sandy soil has larger particles and a rough texture. Since the soil base is loose it’s harder to retain moisture, making it harder for plants to access nutrients. Silt is comprised of fine particles and has a smooth, slippery texture. Its tight compaction can serve as an advantage in retaining moisture and nutrients, or a problem if planted with the wrong tree.  Clay is the most tightly packed soil with little air space; as a result it makes it difficult for air and moisture to penetrate the soil.

Iron_Chlorosis576[1]

Signs of Chlorosis are typical of a nutrient deficiency.

Soil performs five essential functions; using the wrong type of soil or unhealthy soil can impede tree health by constricting roots from accessing the water and nutrients necessary. Soil helps regulate water, supports biodiversity, filters pollutants, provides physical support, and cycles nutrients. You can understand why attempting to plant a tree that requires less soil saturation may not thrive if it’s planted in silt or clay soil. Signs of unhealthy soil include leaf discoloration, brittle limbs, and even stunted tree growth.

roots

Exposed roots pose as a threat to tree health.

It’s also important to dig a hole deep enough for tree roots to grow. Planting in shallow soil makes tree roots more susceptible to exposure which can lead to tree stress and even toppling due to wind gusts. If you have bedrock near the surface of your soil that prevents you from digging deep you might consider mixing in top soil to add depth.

Plant growth is directly influenced by soil conditions. That’s not to say that if your plants show these signs that it’s a result of poor soil. Several varying factors go into tree health and soil care is one of them to keep in mind while planting young trees.

What tips do you have in maintaining healthy soil for planting?

References:

USDA Soil Health

University of Florida IFAS Extension

 

 

 

 

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