Below the surface of the soil lies a complex soil food web we will likely never see. Without it, much of the plant life we enjoy would not be able to exist. The soil food web consists of many organisms that are beneficial to the health of the soil. This beneficial web is plentiful in an undisturbed forest setting, but can be diminished or lacking in some of the soils we have around our homes where our trees are trying to exist.
Many practices done to soils can disturb this fragile soil food web. Things like compacting the soil, over watering, lawn treatments, removal of leaves and small branches, etc… can have major impacts on this fragile web. A healthy soil will need organisms like nematodes, beneficial fungi, bacteria, protozoa, arthropods, and certain other animals in order to maintain a favorable growing environment. These organisms play a critical role in nutrient cycling. Nutrient cycling is the process whereby plant materials are broken down into usable nutrients for plants to carry on life.
The soil food web also creates beneficial soil structures for trees. Soils are much more complex than just a mixture of sand, silt, and clay. It is also made up of soil spaces and many other physical structures that allow root growth and expansion.