Thursday, July 11, 2013

Soil Conditioning - Vital for Optimal Tree Health

After seeing an interview on permaculture design by Bill Mollison last year (see it HERE), we got to wondering why the same principles of working with nature aren't always applied in the nursery industry.

At TreeCo we are exceedingly conscious of the impact that we have on the environment and indeed the positive improvements that we can potentially make to the environment. This prompted us to re-evaluate the production cycle here at the nursery, as well as what happens to our trees post sale.

Thinking Logically - Nutrients are the Foundation

When we came into this business, a horticulturist friend advised us to think of our trees as we do people. The elements that make people thrive will also make trees thrive. Two of those key elements are water and food.

We know that as people, the quality and complexity of our food and the purity of our water has an impact on our health. Organic, natural foods are better for us than processed foods. The same applies to trees.

Although chemical fertilizers have their place in that they can, like medicine, perhaps treat a specific condition, using them to grow and sustain trees is akin to raising your child on supplements and drugs. A child that does not receive proper nutrition is less resistant to illness.

Similarly, the soil and water that container grown trees receive, should be of a naturally nutrient rich enough quality to enable the tree to grow to its full potential. This increases resiliency to disease and difficult environmental conditions. It's about creating a solid foundation.

Knowing this, we decided to investigate what approach we should take to really get our trees to thrive in a healthier, even more natural way. We looked at organic fertiliser options, compost - and were still drawn to the idea of soil quality as being the place where we should start.

Earthworms - Bringing Life to Damaged Soils

After some intensive research, we came across Wurmbosch - a local manufacturer and supplier of Vermigro Worm Castings.

The natural function of an earthworm is to digest organic matter which in this case, is garden greens. The worms carry with them plant residues to aide consumption. As organic matter passes through the earthworms digestive system, it is enriched with nutrients (N, P, K, Ca) and microorganisms which when excreted (cast) back into the soil, release a rich complex of growth hormones, minerals and trace elements. Vermigro is the resultant natural fertiliser, which is designed to condition soil to bring it back to its natural nutrient rich state.

Key Fact: Low or absent earthworm populations in soil indicate a problem of no or little organic residues in the soil, as well as high soil temperatures and low soil moisture. A lack of earthworms has been proven to inhibit plant nutrient uptake which means that fertilisers will have little or no impact on plant health. For more information on the impact earthworms have on soil read this.

Because Vermicast balances the soil and ensures its proper function, plants are able to not only thrive on the rich complex of nutrients that Vermicast provides, but any additional fertilizers that are fed, actually do the job that they are meant to thanks to the stimulus from microbes in the soil.

The Results - Balanced Growth, Improved Quality

For over a year, we at TreeCo have been conditioning our growing medium with Vermicast and the results have been outstanding.

At first, we started with a sample selection of trees upon which we tested our new, enriched growing medium and noticed within a few short weeks, that the sample trees were doing far better than their counterparts.

Since using conditioned, healthy soil throughout our stock, we have not had to use any pesticides or additional fertilizers, yet we are seeing healthy growth even now in winter.

As for how the trees themselves are growing, we have noticed a more balanced, healthy growth where trunks are thicker than before and in more balanced proportion to the height of the tree.

Although we already have a solid track record of resilient, healthy trees that have always been grown using the least amount of chemical fertiliser and pesticides, we have found that by working with nature and giving our trees what they really need to flourish - our quality has improved even further.

We would encourage our clients to seriously consider using worm castings to balance the soil in their landscapes. There is no question that this will not only result in significant benefits to the environment, but will also ensure the optimal growth of plants - which in turn means a happy customer!

For more information, please contact Rudi on 082 829 5543 or Leske on 072 385 0270, or email
For more information on Wurmbosch and Vermigro, please visit their website HERE.

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