Nutrient beds are a cutting edge landscape management strategy, you probably haven’t heard of yet. Nutrient beds improve the health of your trees and shrubs organically. They are especially beneficial for supporting new landscape plantings and proper tree care.
What is a nutrient bed?
According to Cassian Humphreys, a nutrient bed is “a mulch layer which is comprised of materials that are equivalent to a natural forest floor.” It is one of the best ways to keep the nutrients trees and shrubs need available—thus the name “nutrient beds.”
Why use nutrient beds?
Nutrient beds are a highly sustainable landscaping approach which gathers its inspiration from the natural forest floor. One of the most important benefits of this approach is the ability to keep adequate moisture in the ground. In addition, rather than using wood chips and compost, which tend to attract digging animals such as cats and dogs, larger materials are used such as log rounds.
When are nutrient beds beneficial?
There is almost no landscape that wouldn’t benefit from the nutrient bed approach. This approach feeds the soil, which in turn feeds the plants and trees supported by that soil. Artistic placement of the logs, whether sawn lengthwise or crosswise, can be a creative element in the landscape’s design.
Meanwhile, beneath the logs microbial activity is encouraged, especially if the proper preparation is made before placing the logs. The logs work as a water retaining mulch, known to help even small trees weather drought conditions.
Is it easy to set up a nutrient bed?
Setting up a nutrient bed is time and labor intensive initially. Mechanical equipment is extremely valuable for speeding up the process.
First, the soil must be loosened. Because it doesn’t pulverize the soil, hand forking is better than using a rototiller. At the same time, if the area you wish to prepare is quite large, a rototiller will make the job much easier. A bobcat with a fork is even better.
If the area is sloped, creating berms using logs is important. This slows down the runoff of water.
The next step is to lay down an 8-inch layer of compost rich in leaves, twigs and wood chips. While is preferable to use material that is already composted, many successful nutrient beds are started by placing a thinner layer of composted material down first, and then adding a layer of freshly chipped twigs and wood chips, along with a mixture of leaves.
Then on top of this layer, you place logs of whichever size you prefer. (If the logs are placed cut-side up, they will break down more rapidly.)
How can a professional help with setting up a nutrient bed?
The logical time to set up a nutrient bed is when you have your trees pruned. Not only will small branches provide the chipped wood, twigs and leaves for your compost layer, many of the branches can be cut into lengths for your log layer.
Speak with your tree maintenance company about your plans. This will make it easier to coordinate establishing nutrient beds on your property.
What are the benefits of coordinating nutrient bed set-up with my certified arborist?
In most cases, all the nutrients stored by the tree are taken away from your yard at the end of the trimming job. With nutrient beds, you keep all those nutrients where they are needed. Chipping and shredding the small stuff, and then placing them around your shrubs and trees, conserves. Then adding the log layer holds the finer materials in place, while also discouraging squirrels and other foragers from digging everything up.