Continuing our focus on trees here at the Rant, check out this article about suburban trees in July’s Landscape Architecture Magazine. That link won’t show you the whole story, so here’s what it says about the ways that tree growth is stymied (and tree death promoted) in new developments:
- Heavy earth-moving machines create oxygen-deprived hardpan around new homes.
- All but a few inches of topsoil are removed and sold off, leaving just enough for sod.
- What topsoil there is often contains debris-filled "builder’s loam."
- Holes are bored into the hardpan to plant saplings, causing roots to circle the planting hole and the trees to eventually decline.
And as I’ve noticed in my own neighborhood, the hardpan hasn’t improved a whit in the 80 years since the earth-movers did their damage – at least in spots where no organic matter has been added.
This reminds me of the time the sidewalks were replaced on my own street. We learned from talking to the city that the contract for the work required 4 inches of topsoil in the hell strip between the street and the sidewalk, but what we actually got was about a quarter inch – just enough to fool the eye. Underneath was pure builder’s loam – concrete rubble, rock, and little else. That is, unless the homeowners stood guard during the work to force compliance with the contract specs.
Which makes me wonder what, if any, topsoil requirements exist for new housing developments and if there’s any enforcement if they do exist. Because hey, what developer can resist the big money to be made in stealing topsoil from their buyers?
Photo: You’ve seen it before but doesn’t it nicely illustrate what you can grow – even in a hellstrip – with actual topsoil?