“The good ground is gone” often refers to the challenging nature of construction sites these days. Building on steeper slopes and within tighter boundaries while accelerating construction schedules is adding to the challenge of construction managers. Often the revegetation and restoration is unfortunately not planned or timed for successful long-term vegetation success. Site soil conditions are frequently overlooked and the timing necessary for seed germination, expression, and establishment are rarely factors in determining the schedule of seeding applications for optimum results. All too often less than desired results or failure is the accepted outcome. This will increase the future maintenance costs and encourage the repeated “finger pointing” while seeking to blame one cause or another. Typically, this often-repeated process fails to address the fundamental causes and thereby rarely fixes the problems moving forward. In an effort to break out of this all too often repeated cycle, let's break down the principle challenges and explore options for successful restoration of challenging sites.
Successful, long-term revegetation starts with the soil. Without quality soil that takes years to accumulate naturally, revegetation efforts regularly fail or the outcomes are less than ideal. During construction, mining, and general land disturbing activities the soil will be degraded even while practicing the best topsoil harvesting and stockpiling management practices. Many areas where vegetation is desired are essentially mineral without any organic matter or biological activity. When available, stockpiled topsoil will also degrade; the environment within the pile will create conditions that microbes, essential for plant health, will be negatively affected. The longer the stripped soils are stockpiled, the more living organisms are lost. Recommendations and even requirements for limiting the depth of the pile to reduce the loss of beneficial microbes is rarely possible given the tight boundaries of project limits facing site operators. When the stockpile depth is able to be minimized, the pile must also be turned regularly to reduce the loss of the essential nutrient cycling microbiome present in healthy soils.