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Soil: 4 Essential Things It Needs for Trees

By AK Timber in Tree Care

Dirt is just dirt, right? Absolutely not – dirt is one of the most amazing structures that is found on the face of the Earth. It provides nourishment, protection, and comfort to many living things, including your trees. Dirt, or soil, is one of the biggest factors in the health of your trees. For example, if your soil doesn’t have a certain element, your tree might not respond as well to different treatments, it might not produce as much fruit, or you might have trouble keeping it healthy.

When you are planting trees, it is especially important to understand the makeup of your soil, what the pH is, and even what type of soil it is – and yes, there are different types. You can have your soil tested by a few different companies or you can do it yourself if you have the capabilities.

But first you need to know: what has to be in your soil? Let’s take a look:

4. Air

  • Helps with watering
  • Stops compaction
  • Can be helped by aeration

It might seem strange, but the more air that your soil has, the better off it will be. This is because air allows room for drying, which can help to prevent the growth of mold. It also helps other nutrients and organic matter to move easily throughout the soil.

According to the Morton Arboretum, “When soil is compacted, the number of large pores decreases and the number of small pores increases. As Coder writes, “The total pore space of soil being compacted initially increases as more capillary pores are created and as aeration pores are lost. With continuing compaction, total porosity declines and oxygen diffusion rates plumate. The pore sizes which fill and empty with water and air are most impacted by compaction.”As a result, less air and water can be held in the soil.”

It is better to have soil that naturally has more air in it, but you can also buy soil that has a lot of air. This is also one of the main reasons mulch is so effective, the shape almost guarantees air.

3. Nitrogen

  • Pulled through the roots
  • Helps plants develop proteins
  • Helps cell development

One of the most important things your plants and trees need to survive is Nitrogen. Nitrogen helps your trees with the development of proteins, and therefore healthy growth. Many trees that have flowers need more nitrogen than other trees, and fruit trees tend to need more nitrogen as well.

Nitrogen is also imperative for the photosynthesis process, according to Hunker. Photosynthesis helps your trees get usable energy so that they can grow.

If you do not have enough nitrogen in your soil, it will turn yellowish or brown at the tips.  To increase the amount of nitrogen, you can add animal manure, especially poultry manure to your soil.

2. Phosphorous

  • Helps move energy
  • Allows trees to absorb nutrients
  • Keeps entire tree healthy

The next nutrient that should be in your soil is phosphorous. This is an absolutely critical element in the physical development of the plant. Even more, it is important in photosynthesis as well. According to the University of Minnesota, it is important to the growth of strong, solid, deep roots. This means that you definitely want to ensure that your soil has enough phosphorous when you plant trees.

If you don’t have enough phosphorous, you might see leaves that are wilting and dying, but it is even more common to see purple splotches and poor fruit development. To rectify this problem, you need to add animal meal to your soil. You want to find higher quality animal meal, not anything that was treated by antibiotics.

1. Potassium

  • Helps fluid move through the tree
  • Activates enzymes
  • Exists in two forms

Potassium is important for a number of reasons, but the main one is that, according to the Northeast Organic Farming Association, “Potassium is the Great Regulator. It is active in numerous enzyme systems which control metabolic reactions, particularly in the synthesis of proteins and starches. Micronutrients, which have similar functions, are required only in minute amounts. In contrast, potassium must be present in large quantities, although it seems to be completely unsuited for its role.”

So, potassium is one of the most important elements of your soil. A good amount of potassium will help with moisture retention as well as help to prevent any damage from heat. Even better, with younger trees or plants, it will help with growth thanks to stronger root systems.

You can tell that you don’t have potassium in your soil in a few different ways – but mostly you will see leaves, stems, or even branches that are limp and just aren’t as lively as some of your other plants. There are MANY ways to improve the amount of potassium you have in your garden, which is a good thing. The first is to add compost to your soil, compost that has many fruit and vegetable scraps. Bananas should make up a lot of those scraps. If you don’t compost, you can also use wood ash, but that can impact the pH levels of your soil, so you have to keep an eye on that as well.

No matter what you do, you want to keep an eye on your soil levels. Even if you have it tested one year, even one summer with strange temperatures or the use of chemicals in your yard can significantly alter the different nutrients in your soil. You want to stay on top of whether or not your soil is healthy for your trees, because by the time you see some of the nasty results of poor soil, you can’t always alter it.

No matter what type of trees, shrubs, or plant life you have, you want to contact a professional before you do any type of planting, maintenance, or pruning. Your soil can only do so much, and then you will need some help to back you up. Contact AK Timber Services for all of your tree care needs – we can help you at any stage of the tree process, from planting and taking care of your tree to pruning and cutting it down. Call us today at (360) 635-1076 for all of your tree care needs – we offer free estimates.

Header photo courtesy of Daniel R. Blume on Flickr!