Think about the things you need to live (the real needs, aside from your iPhone, TV or latte….); the list goes pretty much like this: Air, Water, Food.
The same is true for trees and other plant life that make up your landscape. While we often focus on watering and fertilizing, most homeowners completely forget the air part of the equation. While it is true that trees and shrubs use CO2 from the environment – absorbed by their leaves - as part of their photosynthesis process, they also require space and air around their root bases.
Give Your Tree Roots the Space They Need to Grow
A little while back, we provided detailed instructions as to the best way to plant a tree. If you follow this process carefully, the soil you provide for future shade trees and ornamentals will be rich in nutrients, adequately firm to hold water and soil amendments, healthy enough to support microbe life - and airy enough to give roots the space they need to oxygenate, grow and access the water and nutrients are stored in soil particles.
Day-by-day, watering-by-watering and year-by-year, that same soil will compact. Over time, and without proper attention, most landscapes wind up with soil that is so heavily compacted, it starts to hinder – rather than help – the plants it supports. Once soil pore space is limited, less water and air are stored in the soil particles. This makes it more difficult for roots to grow. If roots can’t grow, minimal root space ultimately contributes to tree and shrub stress.
In the world of lawns, we recommend core aeration to counteract soil compaction, in the world of trees and shrubs, we recommend a process called air spading.
What is Air Spading and How Can I Get Some For My Trees?
Air spading is a procedure that “fluffs” your landscape’s soil. Once the soil is fluffed, air space is automatically created. Historically, homeowners have done this by using a shovel and/or a spade, working into the soil around the base of trees and shrubs – turning the soil by hand. In addition to being seriously labor-intensive, manual spading runs the risk of damaging, or even permanently destroying, vital roots.
These days, professional arborists prefer using a technical improvement on manual spading – using pneumatic air spaders. These awesome tools use compressed air and shoot it into the soil, which breaks up even the heaviest of compacted soils and fluffs those particulates right up – with not even a damaged root in the process.
Often, during the air spading treatment, we find trees that are buried too deep. In these cases, air spading allows us to expose vital structural and feeder roots, reset the soil line, and leave nice, fluffy, spacious soil behind.
Soil Amendments Are Always Recommended
As long as your soil is fluffed and easy to work with, we recommend taking advantage of the situation and adding important soil amendments. Examples include products such as fertilizer, peat moss, fine stones, mulch and sand.
Depending on what we find, and what we know about the tree or shrub’s location, we’ll balance these amendments to create an ideal soil for the plant. Poor draining soils may be amended with a higher concentration of sand, for example, while arid soils benefit from moss or mulch that help to retain previous water for a little longer.
When’s the last time your landscape benefited from a bit of air spading? Can’t remember? That’s a sign it’s time to contact Joshua Tree. We’ll come out, take a look and tell you what we think.