Soil & Water: What you Need to Know

Soil: It’s sandy, loamy, full of clay, or possibly one too many rocks. The pH level of it is acidic, alkaline or hopefully right in that middle range where your trees thrive. Is there anything more to know about soil then? If you’ve got those basics mastered, can’t you run out and grab a tree to plant?

Almost…

Before you choose a tree to plant, there are still a few things to consider;

Soil and water; their link makes the difference for anything trying to grow in it

Soil & Water

Water has a huge influence on soil. Not enough and we have drought, too much and there is risk of flooding. Even with decent amounts of rain, you can still come across problems when it comes to soil and water though.

  • drainage
  • soil erosion
  • soil compaction

While all of these factors are related, there are very distinct differences that you should note.

Drainage refers to the soil’s capacity to hold water. Depending upon a soil’s texture it may readily hold water or allow water to slip through it easily. Typically, clay is more compact, therefore water has a harder time draining through it. Flooding can be an issue with poor drainage. Sand on the other hand is far more porous in nature, so pooling water is not an issue. Unfortunately, that means water and nutrients quickly pass through sand, sometimes before plants have an opportunity to benefit from it.

That brings us to Soil erosion.

Soil erosion is a naturally occurring process that affects all landforms. In agriculture, soil erosion refers to the wearing away of a field’s topsoil by the natural physical forces of water, wind or through forces associated with farming activities such as tillage.
OMAFRA – http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/12-053.htm

As a homeowner, you need to worry about soil erosion mostly from water. Heavy rains have the capacity to wash away topsoil. Slopes can increase that risk. On a slope, water washes soil downhill. Sometimes that erosion takes on the form of a rill or ditch, which concentrates water into a channel, draining your topsoil away and leaving a gully behind. The problem of course, aside from the negative aesthetic, is the loss of nutrients for your trees and plants.

Soil compaction might seem like a slightly different topic, but compaction of soil affects its drainage capability and subsequent erosion. This can occur due to heavy machinery and frequent traffic. When soil becomes compacted, the pore space in it decreases. Less air within the soil’s texture means that neither air nor water can move between its structure. Essentially a thick layer forms, which effectively makes it impenetrable to nutrients or water. Needless to say, this makes for a less than ideal environment for plants to thrive or survive in.

aeration

One way to improve the relationship between soil and water is through aeration

So what does all of this mean to you the homeowner? Knowing your soil’s texture and pH level is important, but knowledge of your soil’s relationship with water can make all the difference to your plants. Without soil and water, your plants suffer, and if poor drainage, soil erosion or soil compaction are present, your tree could be in danger of collapse. This illustrates the importance of aeration (to improve the amount of air and subsequent water and nutrients to your tree’s roots), not to mention soil amendment (to balance the structure of your soil, improve its drainage, and reduce the risk of erosion).

If your tree doesn’t seem to be thriving, perhaps it is time you look at your soil to see if the answer lies there. A CLC representative can help analyze your soil and make suggestions of ways to improve its health, whether through aeration, fertilization, or the addition of organic matter. Plant Health Care is important for so many reasons, your enjoyment being just one of them. Let us help you ‘dig’ your trees a little more this year.

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