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Are we improving soil conditions

 
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Location: 9A Marion County Fl
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just by planting things in the ground?

Or are the plants we place just drawing and taking from the sand and not really giving anything back except the occasional dead leaves or branches?

I planted another 100 plus trees this weekend and I was wondering about this. If someone could explain to me the answer in simple terms it would be appreciated
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Trees i planted this weekend
Trees i planted this weekend
 
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Location: Billings, MT
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YES! And in a lot more ways than you might appreciate.

First and foremost, I wouldn't discount the "occasional dead leaves or branches". Those leaves and branches break down, feeding bacteria and fungus in the soil, as well as leaving organic matter that helps hold moisture and improve nutrient availability. The roots go deep, and will bring up minerals that aren't necessarily available in the upper levels of soil. When leaves and branches are left in place, the minerals accumulated in them will then be present in the higher levels of the soil.

Second, roots actually exude organic compounds. These exudates feed bacteria in the soil, suppress harmful pathogens, and do a lot of other cool stuff.

Third, plants prevent erosion from wind and rain. This doesn't necessarily directly improve soil, but it does definitely slow down how fast organic material and other good stuff is removed from the soil in the area.

Finally, some plants (legumes being the classic example) are capable of forming a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil, and actually pull nitrogen out of the atmosphere fixing it in the soil (sort of, it ends up in nodules on the roots usually. When the plant dies, the nodules break down releasing nitrogen)
 
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Jason,

Nice job on the trees you planted.  

The worst condition for soil is to have bare soil.  Now I am not going to recommend planting poison ivy or kudzu, but from the standpoint of the soil, the soil itself will be better off.

Just having a living root in the ground helps feed the soil microbes.  Not long ago I used to think of soil, any soil, as being a bunch of chemicals with a little biology thrown in.  I now see the exact opposite.  I see soil as being a bunch of biology (especially microbes) with a little chemistry thrown in.  Getting as much biology as possible into the soil radically builds soil fertility.

I grow exclusively in wood chips which are not exactly chock full of nutrients, but the compost is extremely fertile thanks to the actions of mushrooms and numerous microbes.

Keep planting and I think you will be happy.

Eric

 
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