Improving Tree Health Where It All Begins
Written by: By Keith Glaznap, Certified Arborist WI-0678A
As human beings we tend to be curious. Our society continuously gathers information about many different subjects. While we increase our knowledge of these subjects our understanding of them improves. When our understanding of a given subject improves enough, we may experience a break-through. The tree care industry is no exception to this process. The past 50 years have been nothing short of revolutionary in the tree care industry.
Regarding tree health, the condition of the soil and roots under each tree are critical to tree health. Research tells us that a healthy tree has as much biomass underground as it has above ground. This information was radical at the time of its discovery. Since then, our advancements in tree care relative to root health and management of soil as it relates to tree health have grown exponentially.
One such advancement for tree root health that university studies continue to encourage is “air-tilling”. This process can significantly help to improve tree root development and tree health by reducing soil compaction. This revelation considers the sensitive biology of tree roots as well as the soil conditions that are most favorable for root development and function.
The actual process involves using compressed air to “till” the upper 6-8 inches of soil to avoid damaging tree root tissue. It is recommended to till anywhere from 25% to 100% of the “critical root zone”. The critical root zone is the area residing under the drip line of a given tree. This area is where a large majority of feeder roots are found and thus is considered “critical” for the survival of a tree.
Air-tilling helps to reduce soil compaction while also improving soil structure, water retention, and soil microbial activity. Air-tilling is the most dynamic way to treat a tree with root and/or soil related stress.
In addition to the benefits of air-tilling, compost and mulch are also incorporated into the process. Soil amendments are mixed into the freshly tilled soil to help improve microbial activity, soil structure, and increase organic matter. After that a layer of hardwood mulch is applied as a top dressing. The mulch will help to buffer soil against temperature extremes, retain soil moisture, protect against soil compaction, and nurture the microbial activity.
While air tilling may give a stressed tree its best chance to stabilize it can also help to improve the health of an important tree on your property that still may be looking healthy. Most urban soils are compacted, deficient in beneficial microbial activity, and contain minimal or no organic matter. This means that even healthy-looking trees are often under stress. As always, it will be important to assess each tree and each situation to help determine the best course of action for your tree. Your arborist and the new Wachtel Tree Science soil lab are ready to assist you with your tree care needs.
If you have a stressed or important tree on your property contact your Wachtel Tree Science certified arborist for an assessment today. Air-tilling might be a critical step that can be taken to help improve the health of your favorite tree!