Perils of Trees In the Urban Forest
“The chronic use of inorganic nitrate based fertilizers and pesticides have greatly harmed our urban soils,” says John Stephenson, owner of Stephenson Tree Care, Inc. “The beneficial microorganisms in our backyard soils have been lost or are only marginally present.”
Most homeowners do not realize that the majority of the soil in their yard has been heavily disturbed during home construction. When soil is compacted, it’s like making a snowball. It starts out light and fluffy, but after the snowball is made, it is compacted and solid. When this happens in the soil, the living organisms can’t move, and the air is forced out.
A Suffocating Presence
Most people don’t realize soil, in its natural state, has air space which allows water and nutrients to be more accessible for trees and shrubs. This quality is made possible in great part by beneficial microorganisms living in the soil, including: fungi, beneficial bacteria, protozoa and nematodes. These help keep the soil porous so it retains water better, up to 25% or more. They also allow available nutrients to be absorbed into the root systems of trees, shrubs, and garden plants, creating a healthier zone for them to make a living.
The common practice of scraping and mounding topsoil prior to home construction was, and still is, the norm. Often times the topsoil spread during post construction to complete the yard is not even as it was from the original property. The point is that these soils, being heavily compacted, are unable to support the existing or newly installed trees and shrubs. We are seeing huge declines in the overall health of mature stands of oak, maple, and various other species in many neighborhoods. In addition, newly planted trees and shrubs are failing to thrive. They are nearly static in yearly growth.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Stephenson says the best way to correct this situation is to re-introduce the beneficial microorganisms into the soil and allow them to reclaim the natural vibrancy soils inherently have. This is done by top dressing the drip zones (ground surface below tree branches) with certified organic compost and/or soil injecting liquid compost tea and extracts (which contain fungi, beneficial bacteria, protozoa and nematodes). These treatments allow natural processes to take their course, restoring the inherent characteristics of healthy, forest-like soils.
The changes can happen pretty quickly. In the first growing season in which the injection takes place, the microorganisms can increase soil nutrient availability significantly. Initially, you may want to have two applications (one each in spring and fall). However, as the soil’s makeup is transformed, a single application annually will keep the reclamation process moving forward.
Benefits of Organic Compost & Liquid Compost Tea & Extracts
There are several benefits to using organic compost and liquid and tea and extracts including:
♦ Your soil will have better water retention (up to 25% more)
♦ Increased plant resistance will happen to insects and disease
♦ Non-toxic exposure to people and pets, making your lawn safe
♦ This process reduces runoff and leaching into our rivers and lakes
♦ Toxins (due to over-fertilization and pesticide use) will decompose.
“The best thing this process creates is peace of mind. We’re not into organics because they are trendy; we’re into them because they work. It’s just good land management practice and it’s safer than the inorganic options for the entire community,” explains John Stephenson, of Stephenson Tree Care, Inc.