Soil & Roots

Soil Dos & Don’ts

Soil provides nourishment for the tree’s root system, so healthy soil is essential for a healthy tree! Check out these quick “Dos and Don’ts” to make sure you’re planting your tree in the healthiest soil possible.


  • Test pH levels prior to planting. Evaluating your soil’s pH levels is crucial to understanding what kind of adjustments you may need to make.
  • Select and apply appropriate fertilizer. Your soil test results will determine what kind of fertilizer you should purchase. Click here to learn more about how fertilizers can influence pH levels. Once you’ve selected your fertilizer, you should apply it prior to planting for best results.
  • Establish a mulch ring. Create a shallow ring of mulch around the tree, wide as the canopy. This will help the tree retain water and alleviate compaction, which can stifle the roots. It can even help regulate soil temperature. Spread the mulch out evenly instead at a depth of 2 – 4”, keeping it at least 6” away from the trunk.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Still have questions about Soil Dos and Don’ts? Click here to read our FAQs about soil management.

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