Ask a Question forum: Why is some of my soil like this?

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zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Aug 6, 2017 11:08 AM CST
It has a a lot of unusual roots and I'm not sure if they are attached to anything because they come out very easily. There is also soft, white, dry, matter around these roots. Shown in the pictures I've attached. Any suggestions on how to fix it? It gets in the way when I try to plant stuff. Plus I'm not sure if anything will even grow well in it.
Thumb of 2017-08-06/ninabee/f42d4c


Thumb of 2017-08-06/ninabee/7369f3

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 6, 2017 11:43 AM CST
You can either just dig it in with your shovel, and mix it with the soil underneath as you go, or rake it off and put it in your compost heap. Looks to me like the remains of some dead plants or groundcover that was there. Nothing noxious.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Aug 6, 2017 11:53 AM CST
Is there a tree nearby?
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Aug 6, 2017 12:11 PM CST
I agree with Elaine.
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zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Aug 6, 2017 1:14 PM CST
There is a tree nearby, but it's huge and old. Guessing it's roots are too big and deep to be part of this problem. I will try digging and raking it out.
Thank You!
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Aug 6, 2017 1:55 PM CST
ninabee said:There is a tree nearby, but it's huge and old. Guessing it's roots are too big and deep to be part of this problem. I will try digging and raking it out.
Thank You!


Most tree roots are in the top 1.5 feet of soil, many of them not even that deep. They can extend far out beyond the canopy of the tree also. I've encountered something like you're seeing when planting around a tree including just outside its canopy. The fine roots were very thick and would pull out in clumps. It made it very difficult to plant and I hated damaging the tree roots also, but I was doing it for someone else.

Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Aug 6, 2017 4:43 PM CST
Sooby is right. Nothing abnormal and anything to worry about. The white is just a natural part of the soil ecosystem, too. It's probably a good soil fungus. Many trees species are known for their production of surface root mats that seem to grow so thickly that you wonder if there is more soil or more roots per cubic inch. Notice how nice and airy the soil is there? Compare that with soil in your garden where there are few roots that will be much heavier.

Admittedly, it is difficult to plant in root masses. I usually add a little soil without roots in it, and replant with the original (but broken up) root masses that will decompose to produce good humus and contribute to soil health.

So there is nothing to fix, unless you want to kill whatever the roots are from (probably the tree). That kind of root doesn't just grow all by itself.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
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RickCorey
Aug 7, 2017 1:53 PM CST
>> There is also soft, white, dry, matter around these roots

Once I used a cheap and harmful "soil amendment" that turned out to be mostly wood. Once turned under the soil, it made huge masses of white, "powdery" fungus that looked sickly and apparently sucked ALL the N out of the soil for a full year.

Some of the stuff between the roots might be fungus, as Leftwood said. I GUESS they aren't bad for the plants, but when my poor soil became 50-60% fungus all hopped on too much sawdust and wood shavings, nothing wanted to grow in that.

I suppose the problem was the too many wood products near the surface (not the fungus - the fungus was curing the excess wood).

It would have been fine on the surface, as top-dress mulch.

It would have been great if buried deeper - hugelculture in a small way.

But mixed with soil, the C in the wood stimulated very rapid fungal growth. All that fungus was starving for N, so the plants I tired to grow were double-starving for N (fungal mycelia are much better at extracting nutrients from soil than plant's roots).

I don't think your 'problem' was excess woody shreds in the soil, just a lot of tree roots and some fungus, just doing their thing.

In my yard, anything planted near a tree loses the competition to the tree. Even a compost heap was taken over by pine tree roots. No more compost, just feeder roots for a tree!

Well, ivy can compete with tree roots.





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