May 17

Your Soil Absolutely Needs These Four Things



Have you ever had your soil tested? If not, you may be missing out on some really important elements that will make your trees, grass, plants, and everything else in your yard healthy and happy.

Dirt is really complex for something that many people don’t think about – there are many different parts that make it function. Eliminate even one of those things, and you don’t have a good situation. Whether you are looking to grow thicker, more luxurious grass or you want to grow strong fruit trees, soil may be more important than any other factor.

When you look at your dirt, don’t see something that is a nuisance. Instead, look at it as a supporter of life and one of the most precious things you can have in a yard. Once you embrace that, you will see how your entire yard changes.

So just what needs to be in your soil? Let’s start with the basics:

4. Your Soil Needs Nitrogen

soil with nitrogen
Credit: brewbooks
  • Helps the roots
  • Strengthens cell development
  • Builds stronger proteins

Nitrogen is one of the most important parts of the photosynthesis process, according to Hunker. Photosynthesis helps your trees, plants, and shrubs get usable energy so that they can grow and produce leaves, fruits, and flowers.

Nitrogen is key for the survival of your plants and trees. It will help your tree with cell development by building stronger proteins, which the tree then uses to grow stronger and taller. But nitrogen helps from the bottom of the tree up, building strong roots as well. The amount of nitrogen that your trees need depends on the type of tree, but typically trees that produce fruit will need more.

If your soil doesn’t have enough nitrogen, you will see brown tips on your leaves. If you see this, adding animal manure to your soil, especially poultry manure, can add nitrogen back into your soil.

3. Your Soil Needs Phosphorous

A field with extra phosphorous.
Credit: UWMadisonCALS
  • Helps produce energy
  • Allows trees to effectively absorb nutrients
  • Keeps entire tree healthy

According to the University of Minnesota, phosphorous is important for your soil because it helps your trees to grow stronger, more solid roots. This means that you absolutely want to ensure that you have soil that is rich in phosphorous. It is more essential in the development of the tree, but your tree never really stops growing, so you want it always.

Low levels of phosphorous can lead to poor fruit development, dying leaves, or purple splotches on the greenery.

If you do not think that your soil has phosphorous, you might want to add animal meal to your soil – but not any animal meal, you want to get high quality meal that wasn’t treated by antibiotics.

2. Your Soil Needs Air

Credit: Jason Baker
  • Helps with watering
  • Detracts from molding
  • Stops compaction

The Morton Arboretum warns: “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.”

Soil compaction is a dangerous thing for many reasons. The primary reason is that water can’t always permeate compacted soil, so the roots of your trees and plants won’t have access to the water. The deeper water goes, the more effective it will be. Even more importantly, in some cases, water that just sits on compacted soil will turn into mold, which can be dangerous to plants as well.

If you are worried that your soil is compacted – namely if you are seeing water pooling around your garden – you can either aerate the ground or you can add some mulch.

1. Your Soil Needs Potassium

Credit: Zoe Cross
  • Fluid absorption rates increased
  • Enzymes activated
  • Easy to add to your soil

The most important element of your soil may just be something that you can easily add if you do not have enough: potassium. Why is it so important?  Northeast Organic Farming Association explains, “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.”

Moisture retention is important because it helps your plants to get the water that you put into the ground and helps you to keep your water bills down. Even better, it ensures that your young trees will get all of the nutrients that they need.

Trees that are in ground that doesn’t have enough potassium will seem like they are weaker than other trees, they won’t have as much elasticity and just seem weak. To add more potassium to your garden, you want to start composting your vegetable and fruit scraps, especially bananas. If you don’t want to compost, wood ash is another possibility, but that comes with other dangers.

Give us a call today and we will help you to determine whether or not your tree problems are related to your soil or if adding something to your soil is a good idea for your yard. Even better, we can help you to keep your trees safe while you work on getting your soil back on track. Our team works extremely hard to care about the environment and give back – and we encourage everyone to compost if they can.

Have any questions? We are happy to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out today at 1 (317) 661-4240 and we will set up a free consultation with you for tree care and can talk to you about composting.

Header photo courtesy of Jonas Bengtsson on Flickr!

Menchhofer Tree Care

About Steve Menchhofer

Steve Menchhofer has been caring for the trees of the Indianapolis, Indiana metro area for over 40 years. Steve and his team of experienced, certified arborists are members of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Indiana Arborist Association.

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