Plant species, planting location and soil conditions are three of the biggest factors that affect the health of your landscape plants, whether it be a tree, shrub, ground cover or flowers.
Trees and shrubs in city and suburban landscapes often have to contend with limited space where branches and roots can grow. Your landscape plants are hemmed in by buildings, utilities, sidewalks, driveways, patios, and other landscaped or native plants. Even low areas or gutter downspouts can lead to saturated soil where plants roots will struggle to survive.
Soil type and growing conditions must be carefully considered if the landscape is to survive, and thrive, in the future. Matching the tree or shrub to site conditions like soil type, soil moisture and the amount of sunlight is critical.
If you live in a subdivision or newly-constructed home the odds are pretty good the condition of the soil is far from ideal. A common, but unseen, hindrance to healthy root development is compacted soil. Salty irrigation water from water softeners and planting trees and shrubs on berms can also have an adverse affect on the health of your plants.
When poor soil conditions are present new landscape plants can appear to flourish right after planting. But, once the plants have been in for a few years the effects of poor soil conditions start to become apparent. By this time, of course, your plant warranty has long expired and an arborist is called in to decide if it’s better to replace the plant or try to save it.
Fortunately, several soil enhancement techniques can be implemented to address less-than-ideal soil conditions. Soil aeration under the canopy of a stressed tree with an Air Spade ® relieves soil compaction. Incorporating sand or topsoil into clay soils will improve organic matter content and improve soil aeration. Mulching under trees and shrubs will help maintain soil moisture and moderate soil temperatures.
Research indicates that maintenance fertilizing is an important component in keeping landscape plants healthy. But, further improvement of the soil condition can be accomplished along with deep-root fertilization. Adding biological materials increases organic matter and raises the level of beneficial soil microorganisms in your soil. This includes adding mycorrhizae fungi, which will get nature working on your side. Mycorrhizae are specialized fungi that help plant roots efficiently absorb water and nutrients.
We judge the health of our landscape plants by what we see above the ground, and rightly so.
However, we must remember that plants originate from, and live in, the soil. The health of our trees and shrubs is directly related to the health of the soil. Without addressing the condition of the soil how can we expect our landscape plants to remain healthy?