Is 2017 the Year you Focus on Your Soil?

Is this the year you put your soil first?

How often do you think about soil and how it affects your trees and plants? Did you know that soil health is integral for healthy trees? And that without the base knowledge of the health of your soil, you are missing an integral piece in the overall health of your landscape?

Trees draw nutrients from the soil, but if nutrient levels are poor, then your trees are at risk of suffering. The ideal makeup of healthy soil for trees is dependent upon your kind of tree—some trees prefer alkaline versus acidic soil—but the tenet is still the same—soil health is important. But do you even really know what soil is?

What exactly is soil anyway?

Soil: The upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark brown material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles.

Oxford English Dictionary

That is a basic and rudimentary explanation, but there is so much more to it than that. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs goes further with its definition;

Soil classification: the systematic arrangement of soils into categories on the basis of their characteristics. Broad groupings are made on the basis of general characteristics, and subdivisions on the basis of more detailed differences in specific properties.

OMAFRA

Sounds complicated. We won’t go into the complexities of soil pedon, but even those of you who don’t know any more about soil other than it is the dirt in your backyard, you probably already know something. Is your soil sandy or heavy with clay? Do you have rich loam that promotes growth in your garden beds or terra firma that is more reminiscent of gravel? This table from the OMAFRA helps to further classify soil into groups based on its texture.

Table 1. Soil Texture Groups
Group NameMain Particle Size CharacteristicsTextures Included in Group
Very GravellyMaterials containing >35% gravel by volume or >50% gravel by weightAny texture with a “very gravelly” modifier but generally associated with textures dominated by medium to coarse sands
SandyTotal sand fraction > 50% and dominated by fine to coarse sands; clay content <20%.Coarse sand, loamy coarse sand, coarse sandy loam, sand, loamy sand, sandy loam, fine sand, loamy fine sand; includes “gravelly” modifiers where applicable
LoamyMaterials containing <27% clay; remaining fractions dominated by high contents of very fine sand and/or silt.Very fine sand, loamy very fine sand, very fine sandy loam, fine sandy loam, silt, silt loam, loam; includes “gravelly” modifiers if applicable
ClayeyMaterials containing 27 to 60 % clay.Sandy clay loam* , silty clay loam, clay loam, sandy clay, silty clay, clay
Very Fine ClayeyMaterials containing > 60% clayHeavy clay

*Clay content of sandy clay loam can be as low as 20%.

Well, that might help you classify your soil based on texture—gravelly, sandy, loamy, clayey—but how else is soil analyzed? According to A&L Laboratories, when doing soil analysis,

“Two key indicators that measure soil health and its influence on plant growth are overall total and quality of biological activity and nitrogen mineralization.”

That’s a little harder to measure with the eye, but no less important. Hence why CLC Tree Services trusts them to handle our soil analysis when diagnosing tree health.

As a homeowner, you need to worry about that, but also about soil compaction, drainage, erosion, pH levels, and what trees and plants prefer which soils. All of these factors affect your soil’s health and consequently the health of your trees. Which is why we will go into each of these topics, and more, in greater depth in future blog posts.

Do you have a question about soil? Drop us a line and we will do our best to answer it. Because soil health is as important to us, as it should be to you.

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