The Importance of Soil Health

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Residing in Calgary, we deal with an extreme arid climate that has a domino effect on all the living organisms that plant their roots into the soil. Being “arid” means that we have a very low precipitation rate, making it a dry place to be. Trees need an adequate amount of moisture to ensure a healthy and vigorous growth to life. To really dwell into what makes a healthy tree, we must first investigate where it all begins.

When a tree is planted or when a seed breaks ground, the first thing that happens is that the roots start to grow outwards to establish itself. While the roots are growing, they are searching for two things, moisture and nutrients. Without either, the tree is already doomed to fail. So, the question asked is how do we make sure our soil conditions meet the expectations for a healthy tree?

First, we need to determine where we are on the pH scale. Most of the Prairies sit higher up on that scale, leading to a more alkaline rating. Alkaline soil will trap essential nutrients causing the roots to not be able to capture them. When left alone, this will lead to the decline of a tree. So, finding ways to open the soil particles and creating a more beneficial environment for the roots is what must be looked at.

Fertilizing your tree may seem to be the easiest way to mitigate this issue, but it is only a quick fix and does not focus on the long-term issues of the soil. Applying mulch around your trees and on top of the soil is a cost effective and extremely beneficial way of cooling the soil and maintaining moisture content. Mulch will also decompose over time and continue to distribute nutrients to the soil.

One more way to improve soil health, nutrient levels, and quality, is to inoculate microbiology back into the soil food web. The soil food web is a community of micro-organisms living in the soil that all together benefit overall conditions and turn dirt into soil. Adding beneficial fungi like mycorrhizae as well as adding in worm castings (earth worm poop), will serve extremely helpful to improve the soil food web.

Remember, healthy soil makes a healthy tree, and a healthy tree increases its chance at defending itself against insects and diseases.