Most of us really don’t know much about dirt. Yet the layers of dirt are exactly what we need to understand if we are to preserve the yard and with it, the curb appeal of the home.
The important layer is topsoil. Above that, there’s organic matter that’s decaying and becoming part of the dirt. Underneath the topsoil, the dirt is often very compact. Depending on where you live, it’s likely that you will strike clay if you dig six inches to a foot below the surface.
Topsoil is the part of the earth that will actually allow grass, plants or trees to grow. Preserving it is much less expensive than replacing it. Yet many yards slowly die, becoming eyesores and pulling down home values. Some homeowners have purchased new turf, assuming that dirt plus grass equals success. Unfortunately, the grass dies off because there is little or no topsoil beneath it.
Buying soil is expensive. A $10 bag of dirt from the hardware store is not even enough for most gardens. A load of dirt from a supplier might cost $300 or more, if you are covering a half-acre of lawn. To avoid these expenses and the work that comes with it, homeowners should follow some sensible conservation guidelines.
Preserve the Hillsides
In the 2019 movie, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, the main character Bernadette knows it would be wrong to take the wild bushes from the hillside. Yet her neighbor forces her to do it. Nature takes its revenge when the hillside washes into the neighbor’s living room during a party.
The hilarious scene isn’t so far-fetched. Many homeowners yank out shrubs and trees, even on their hillsides. Everytime they do, they encourage the loss of topsoil. It probably won’t cause an avalanche like it does in the movie, but the long-term consequences are just as dire. It’s very difficult to replace soil on a hill.
Clearly, it’s much easier to maintain existing shrubs. If you don’t have any, you should plant new ones to hold the soil in place.
Prevent Surface Water Runoff
Runoff happens when the water stays on the surface of the soil and carries nutrients out of the yard and into the road. To prevent that, trees are essential. Their trunks, roots, branches and leaves all play a part in preventing the runoff that drains nutrients away.
Older trees are especially important, since they tend to have massive root systems. The lesson here is that homeowners should plant more trees and preserve their older trees if they want their topsoil to thrive.
Your sprinkler system should be carefully placed in such a way that it doesn’t encourage runoff. There should be little or no puddling as that is a sign that the ground isn’t absorbing the water. You want your system to water gently, the opposite of a heavy rain that would drag away topsoil.
More Benefits of Trees and Shrubs
Trees play several other important roles. For one thing, they drop needles or leaves, contributing organic matter to the soil below. Homeowners should mulch leaves rather than rake them all away. Furthermore, trees and shrubs act as windbreaks. This helps reduce the rapid evaporation of water from the soil.
As these plants grow larger, they become microhabitats. These attract the right pollinators and other creatures that help maintain the health of the soil. In turn, as these small creatures die and decay, they contribute to the biodiversity of the soil.
Protecting the topsoil is essential maintenance. It should be a top priority for any homeowner who wants to preserve their lawn’s beauty.