An Urban Tree Care Conference
January 17th & 18th, 2019

Think Tree Resources

Soil and the City, Episode 5: Trees – the Love Child of Soil, Water and Air

by Amy Bell, PLA, ASLA, ISA Certified Arborist FBT Architects Landscape Architect

This six-part blog series investigates the reasons why we have fallen out of love with soil (or at the very least taken it for granted) and how we can rekindle that relationship through an amended approach to the design and construction of our everyday places.

Soil and the City, Episode 5: Trees – the Love Child of Soil, Water and Air

Wait a minute. What business does a soil blog have going on about trees? Turns out, they might be the key to a lasting relationship with soil.

Trees serve as our worldly connection to the depths below. Through their leaves, branches, flowers and fruit, we surface dwellers can peek into the frenzy of biological romance under our feet. Trees represent the grand outcome of prolific procreation underground through the intermingling of air, sunlight, water and organic matter.

Pablo Neruda, master of love prose, felt this resonance and described it in his poem "Girl Gardening" (from Third Book of Odes 1957):


The whole
of you prospered
piercing down
into earth,
greening
the light
like a thunderclap
in a massing of leafage and power.


In a pure and graceful expression of true love, trees are masterfully grounded yet artfully airborne. They speak to the soil through chemical interactions, electrical pulses, and water, nutrient and gas exchange. Tree roots and fungus in the soil boogie down through mycorrhizal associations, benefitting plant and soil ecosystem alike. Despite their fixed address, trees are nimble and eloquent communicators. Have a seat. Trees will listen.

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Soil and the City, Episode 4: Romancing the Soil – Towards Making Amend(ment)s

by Amy Bell, PLA, ASLA, ISA Certified Arborist FBT Architects Landscape Architect

This six-part blog series investigates the reasons why we have fallen out of love with soil (or at the very least taken it for granted) and how we can rekindle that relationship through an amended approach to the design and construction of our everyday places.

Soil and the City, Episode 4: Romancing the Soil – Towards Making Amend(ment)s

Last week we documented a rather messy breakup with soil, but today we've come to our senses and decided to ask for a second chance. With luck, a little romance will go a long way. Let's get back on that bicycle and review the basics:

Step 1: Get Soil's Number
Making the first move may seem daunting, but it's relatively simple. To begin, we need to remember that soil is actually there (though we might need x-ray goggles to see it). The urban environment provides ample hiding places for soil, yet it persists under the pavement and weed barrier fabric ­– the ultimate contrarian.

Getting soil's number is like unearthing a new kind of truth window. An aperture that reminds us that even under our feet, truck tires, parking lots and building foundations, fascinating stuff is happening down there. The prospect and mystery of a soil ecology that continues to survive despite our best efforts is infinitely alluring.

The act of "getting that number" opens up an avenue for communication, but as with any relationship there is protocol. Attention to detail, patience and sensitivity will lay the groundwork needed for authentic progress.

Step 2: Craft the Perfect Date
Now that we have soil's attention (or rather soil has regained ours) how do we win it back? Dr. Ruth suggests listening to your partner. Find out about them. Get to know them. Some prefer a swanky cocktail on a rooftop patio while others want to cozy up to a fire with a robust bottle of wine. Speaking from experience, a box of chocolate truffles will do the trick. But I digress.

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