Soil Basics

Soil provides nourishment for root system, so healthy soil is essential for a healthy tree! When deficiencies occur, plants may become susceptible to insect and disease problems, struggling to reach their full potential. Check out these quick “Dos and Don'ts” to help your trees live in the healthiest soil possible. DO:

  • Get a laboratory analysis. While not mandatory, a professional lab analysis will help you make informed nutrition decisions for your tree. You may prepare soil samples yourself by purchasing a soil core sampling kit, but a professional arborist will have the expertise required to interpret the results. Evaluating your soil is crucial to understanding what kind of adjustments you may need to make.
  • Establish a mulch ring. Create a shallow ring of mulch around the tree, wide as the canopy. This helps retain water and alleviate compaction, which can stifle the roots, and even help regulate soil temperatures. Spread the mulch out evenly instead at a depth of 2 – 3”, keeping it at least 6” away from the trunk.
  • Select and apply appropriate fertilizer. The purpose of supplemental fertilization is to provide soil minerals that may not be readily available or are simply limited in landscape soils.


  • Pile mulch near the tree. Do not pile the mulch against the trunk of the tree! This will cause water to accumulate, rotting the trunk and buttress roots.
  • Change the soil level around your trees. Careful! Adding even a few inches of soil can smother roots and rot a tree’s roots and trunk.
  • Over-fertilize your soil. Don’t get carried away! Excess fertilizer may seem like a good idea, but it can upset your soil’s pH balance and damage your tree. Only correct existing nutrient deficiencies.

Still have questions about Soil Dos and Don’ts? Please call to meet with one of BTSE's Certified Arborists to decide if there are activities appropriate for your improving your soil.

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