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Year-round work to keep cherry blossoms thriving

The Cherry Blossoms are a DC staple millions come to visit annually, but at a cost. All the foot traffic compacts the soil. (Photo: ABC7)

It’s been unusually loud around the Tidal Basin this week, but for good reason.

“We are trying to make sure the trees are as healthy as can be,” said Michael Stachowicz, Turf Management Specialist with National Park Service.

The Cherry Blossoms are a DC staple millions come to visit annually, but at a cost. All the foot traffic compacts the soil.

“When you do that you are actually making the soil denser, so there’s no room for air or water infiltration, never mind root growth,” Stachowicz explained.

The soil becomes more like clay than anything else. It’s even rock like in some cases.

“Compaction wouldn’t kill the tree,” Stachowicz added. “But what it would do is keep them in a compromised unhealthy state, and make it susceptible to infection and disease.”

The National Park Service is paying $50,000 to have a crew dig trenches with high air pressure hoses so not to hurt the trees’ roots. The workers then mix the old soil with nutrient rich compost allowing the roots to grow and get the water they need.

This is the first time NPS is aerating the soil. It hopes to repeat the process next year on a different section of trees.

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