Air Spading at UCF’s Academic Village
Posted June 2017
Air spading is a soil aeration and excavation process that enables tree care professionals to treat problems associated with compressed soils, girdling roots, and nutrient deficiencies. The air spading tool looks similar to a pressure washer, but instead of emitting water it emits highly compressed air, which is minimally damaging to tree roots. The compressed air blows away soil at the base of the tree and around tree roots to either aerate the soils, expose girdling roots, or to create holes in the ground where nutrients can be directly injected. It can also be used to expose roots prior to construction or repair activities to examine location and size of roots before excavating the soil. The LNR Urban Forestry team recently used air spading to address problem conditions for trees growing in the in the Nike and Hercules housing community courtyard area. The picture below shows three small Nuttall Oaks in that area that were planted in 2006. The other larger trees in the distance were planted at the same time as the smaller trees but were not exposed to excessive root compaction, and thus they were able to develop better root systems, take up more nutrients, and grow larger and healthier than the smaller restricted trees. On January 11th, 2017 the UCF Urban Forestry team conducted air spading on all the Nuttall Oaks in this area affected by excessive soil compaction. The team used a method known as radial trenching. They used the air spade to create four radial trenches extending like spokes on a wheel from the center of each tree. These trenches were filled with loosely packed, organic soil, which will help reinvigorate the tree, enhance nutrient uptake, and allow the roots to develop more efficiently. The planters will not be filled with concrete again, but will be planted with a Florida friendly landscape that will help retain water and produce a better environment root growth and enhanced nutrient uptake by the trees.