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From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps

Transform dead dirt into healthy soil using these tried-and-true methods.

At Leaf & Limb, we believe that healthy soil is the foundation for happy trees and shrubs. However, much of the ground in urban areas and around our houses is actually lifeless dirt. Dead dirt is a product of the overuse of chemicals, over-development and other harmful practices.

Trees and other plants cannot grow from dead dirt. To thrive, they need healthy soil that is teeming with life.

So how do you transform dead dirt into healthy soil? Here are several of our tried-and-true methods:

Stop using NPK fertilizers

Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (NPK) fertilizers are commonly used for trees, shrubs, and grass. From time to time, these fertilizers might be necessary, but blanket use of store-bought fertilizer can harm the soil food web and deplete healthy nutrients. They also pollute waterways, cause beneficial fungi to die off, compromise a tree’s root system, and make trees and shrubs more susceptible to pests and disease.

Stop using herbicides

Herbicides do not just kill weeds. They also work their way into the soil and destroy beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that live there. Not only do these chemicals deplete your soil, but they also harm pollinators and have been shown to cause cancer in humans.

Leave the leaves

Leaf litter is part of a tree’s life cycle. It is nature’s way of recycling essential nutrients and protecting the tree’s roots during the harsh winter months. Leaf litter also fortifies soil by providing organic matter, which is necessary for all living organisms in the soil. We call this life the soil food web

Be mindful of disturbing the soil

Soil is a living ecosystem. When you tear it apart or compact it, it cannot maintain its structure. Without space to hold necessary nutrients like air and water, it quickly turns back into lifeless dirt. If you are disturbing large areas around your trees and shrubs, that soil will likely need some TLC down the road to return to a healthy state.

Use wood chips

Wood chips benefit your soil by providing the microorganisms that live in the ground with organic matter, which is their food source. Plus they make excellent mulch. At Leaf & Limb, we often see dramatic soil health transformations just by using wood chips.

Use compost

Whether you make it at home or use a service, compost is a great way to add life back to your soil. As a bonus, it also prevents green waste from going to a landfill, which reduces your waste footprint and prevents the generation of harmful methane gas.

Stop spraying for mosquitos

These sprays are meant to impact mosquitos only, but the chemicals also settle into the ground and kill the organisms living in your soil, turning it to dead dirt. There are a few organic options available for use, or you could install a bat box in your backyard (did you know bats can eat up to 8,000 mosquitos per night?!).

These are just some of the steps you can take to protect and improve the health of your soil. Your trees and shrubs will thank you for it.

If you have any questions about soil or any soil success stories, we would love to hear about them. Healthy soil, happy trees.

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