Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.”
—Hermann Hesse, from Wandering: Notes and Sketches

Trees are as fundamental to our concept of Muskoka’s beauty as its wildlife, lakes, and rugged terrain. A vigorous, untouched forest might suggest that trees thrive on neglect, but when it comes to the trees on our own properties, they will sometimes require human help. Most of the time, this help begins and ends with tending to the health of the soil the tree is rooted in. Simply put, soil health equals tree health.

Soil Health

Consider the soil around your tree not as a single entity, but as a rich ecosystem, teeming with life. That ecosystem houses and nourishes both the tree’s deep anchoring roots, which provide stability, and its feeder roots, which absorb water and inorganic nutrients. Other important root functions include the storage of food and nutrients and the translocation of water and minerals to the tree stem.

Healthy root systems mean trees that have a better ability to endure stressors, such as insects, disease, and pollutants. And from an aesthetic perspective, beautiful foliage in the canopy requires a healthy root system.

Coulson Bros. Arboriculture can help you there. We are equipped with a keen understanding of the Muskoka area’s unique soil conditions. (Let’s just say, there’s a reason we don’t farm here.) Our certified arborists can help you assess your soil conditions and plan for improvement in order to safeguard your well-established trees and nurture the young growth.

Consider the soil around your tree not as a single entity, but as a rich ecosystem, teeming with life. That ecosystem houses and nourishes both the tree’s deep anchoring roots, which provide stability, and its feeder roots, which absorb water and inorganic nutrients. Other important root functions include the storage of food and nutrients and the translocation of water and minerals to the tree stem.

Healthy root systems mean trees that have a better ability to endure stressors, such as insects, disease, and pollutants. And from an aesthetic perspective, beautiful foliage in the canopy requires a healthy root system.

Coulson Bros. Arboriculture can help you there. We are equipped with a keen understanding of the Muskoka area’s unique soil conditions. (Let’s just say, there’s a reason we don’t farm here will this offend the people who do farm here?.) Our certified arborists can help you assess your soil conditions and plan for improvement in order to safeguard your well-established trees and  nurture the young growth.

Root Functions

1. Absorption of water and inorganic nutrients,

2. Anchoring of the plant body to the ground, and supporting it,

3. Storage of food and nutrients

4. Trans locating water and minerals to the stem.

Pre-Construction

Unfortunately, many trees die as a result of the effects of building construction. Heavy equipment can sever vital stabilizing and feeder roots, compact root zones, and literally suffocate the roots of your trees. Adding aggregates without considering tree/root health  can smother a tree’s root system while at the same time drastically change the nutrients it is accustomed to. As with most things, it is better to be proactive than reactive. The ideal time to save trees from the harmful effects of construction is before construction begins. Coulson Bros. certified arborists will visit your building lot to assess the risk to trees and provide guidance to homeowners and builders about how to optimize the trees’ chances for survival. Understanding how far root systems are likely to extend, assembling tree protection barriers, and adding protection  over vulnerable areas can help ensure the presence of a healthy, established tree population after construction is complete.

Post-Construction

Once construction of a cottage is complete, Coulson Bros. arborists can assess the surrounding tree population and help homeowners address any resulting tree health–related issues. During a post-construction assessment, our arborist may make recommendations to improve the now-changed landscape and assist in the recovery of the trees and shrubs affected by the construction. This is also a good time to make informed decisions on trees you may want to replant in the areas cleared for the construction. By choosing the right species of tree, you will have better success in getting your greenscape back to where it once was (and to what we desire in Muskoka). This can include the application of nutrient-rich mulch over the root zones, air spading of soil compacted by the weight of heavy machinery, and radial air trenching to loosen up soil specifically along a tree’s root system.

What Homeowners Can Do to Ensure Good Soil Health

Here are some steps homeowners can take to ensure and maintain good soil health on their property:

  • Resist the urge to clean up your yard in the fall when the leaves have dropped. Instead, think like a forest and leave a layer of mulched leaf litter on the ground. As it decomposes, it provides vital nutrients to the soil. In fact, consider adding a layer of mulch in areas where natural mulch is sparse. Your soil will thank you for it as it helps to mimic the forest floor in our maintained landscapes.
  • Be aware of root zones before you begin building or undertake garden projects near trees. For example, a raised garden bed around the trunk of a tree will encourage poor root growth and potentially allow for girdling roots or constriction of the roots.
  • Mycorrhizae (from the Greek words for fungus and root), a fungus that grows symbiotically in soil, exists on about 90 percent of all land plants globally. This mutually beneficial relationship can improve soil health—through increased water and nutrient uptake and pest and disease resistance—and help trees stay healthy in challenging soil conditions. Mycorrhizal fungi can be purchased and applied manually to soil and root bulbs to encourage vigorous fungal growth.
  • Resist the urge to clean up your yard in the fall when the leaves have dropped. Instead, think like a forest and leave a layer of mulched leaf litter on the ground. As it decomposes, it provides vital nutrients to the soil. In fact, consider adding a layer of mulch in areas where natural mulch is sparse. Your soil will thank you for it as it helps to mimic the forest floor in our maintained landscapes.
  • For newly planted trees, fertilize tree root zones with a balanced, site-specific fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Spread wood ash over root zones.
  • Do not water tree roots, with the exception of recently planted trees.  See the diagram below for an illustration of the difference between the absorbing roots of a tree and the heart roots of a tree.
  • Be aware of root zones before you begin building or undertake garden projects near trees. For example, a raised garden bed around the trunk of a tree will encourage poor root growth and potentially allow for girdling roots or constriction of the roots.
  • Mycorrhizae (from the Greek words for fungus and root), a fungus that grows symbiotically in soil, exists on about 90 percent of all land plants globally. This mutually beneficial relationship can improve soil health—through increased water and nutrient uptake and pest and disease resistance—and help trees stay healthy in challenging soil conditions. Mycorrhizal fungi can be purchased and applied manually to soil and root bulbs to encourage vigorous fungal growth.

Benefits of Mycorrhizal Fungi

The word Mycorrhizae (pr. mayko’rayzi) comes from the Greek words for fungus and root, meaning “fungus roots.” These fungus roots develop as a mutually beneficial relationship between plant roots and fungi that live in healthy soils. This relationship is found on about 90 percent of all land plants around the world.

A single square inch of soil can have miles of these fungus root extensions, called mycelium. This dense web of threads can improve plant health in different ways. In exchange for what the fungi offer, plants feed them with sugars produced through photosynthesis.

The word Mycorrhizae (pr. mayko’rayzi) comes from the Greek words for fungus and root, meaning “fungus roots.” These fungus roots develop as a mutually beneficial relationship between plant roots and fungi that live in healthy soils. This relationship is found on about 90 percent of all land plants around the world.

A single square inch of soil can have miles of these fungus root extensions, called mycelium. This dense web of threads can improve plant health in different ways. In exchange for what the fungi offer, plants feed them with sugars produced through photosynthesis.

Water and Nutrient Uptake

Roots with mycorrhizal fungi are able to use water and nutrients that “naked” roots cannot reach by themselves. The extremely small fungal threads are able to reach water trapped in small soil pores. This not only improves plant growth, but it also can increase the chance of survival during drought.

Likewise, the threads can access nutrients in mineral deposits, soil aggregates and organic matter with pores too small for roots to grow into. Many forms of mycorrhizal fungi also are able to produce chemicals that break down soil compounds into forms that are easier for trees to absorb and use.

Pest and Disease Resistance

By improving water and nutrient uptake, especially phosphorus, fungi can improve tree health and increase trees’ abilities to fight off pests and disease. Some fungi also protect trees from soil-borne disease and pests by producing antibiotic compounds, stimulating other beneficial microorganisms in the root zone, activating plant defense genes, out-competing harmful fungi and acting as armor around fragile roots.

Survival in Harsh Soils and Overall Soil Health

Some mycorrhizal fungi can help trees tolerate soils with high or low pH, high salt content, low fertility or heavy metals. The way these fungi help trees survive in such difficult sites is not completely understood. However, much of the benefit comes from trees’ increased ability to take up extra moisture and nutrients, and by locking away potentially harmful chemicals in plant or fungus tissue.

Mycorrhizal fungi not only can increase tree survival in difficult soils, they can improve soil through time. Fungal roots help chemically and physically break up compacted soils. These processes also can help improve soils structure by promoting soil aggregates. The improved soil structure can reduce erosion, increase water infiltration and promote the growth of other beneficial soil-dwelling life forms.