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ASLA-NCC

American Society of Landscape Architects
Northern California Chapter

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Urban Trees/ Urban Soil

Urban Trees/ Urban Soil

Healthy soil is the backbone of a healthy site, and both soil structure and adequate volume are critical for successful plantings. Urban soils are particularly challenging because they are typically disturbed soils, lacking adequate structure, organic matter and are constrained by existing sub-surface infrastructure. The awareness that soil essentially functions as part of that infrastructure, conveying water and nutrients to plants, is fundamental to a successful project.

In the ASLA-NCC’s most recent lecture, five expert panelists gave us a range of perspectives and experience on soil science surrounding common issues such as compaction, engineered soils, and the use of compost. A recent post on the Metropolis blog focuses on the significance of building an adequate volume of healthy soil for trees planted in urban settings, and details an installation for Lincoln Center Plaza in NYC. Some of the innovative techniques used in that installation are also included in Tree Space Design: Growing the Tree Out of the Box, a handbook of design recommendations, developed by a panel of arborists, landscape architects, and other experts convened by Casey Trees for providing street trees with adequate soil volume while maintaining sufficient space for pedestrian circulation. Although the handbook was created for Washington, D.C., the design principles can be applied to most urban settings. Also worth reading again is a past Tree Science blog post on this subject by Laurel Kelly.

Finally, have you ever stopped to think where trees get their mass from? Veritasium, the science video blogger, has a video post asking this very question. Hint: it’s not from the soil…

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