When Arboretum horticulture staff need to break up heavily-trod ground or move a large plant from one location to another in the landscape, an air spade helps them get the job done. Through a $10,000 gift from Arnold Arboretum Committee, a Jamaica Plain non-profit advocacy organization, the Arboretum has acquired an air compressor that will enable staff to deploy the air spade more extensively for plant health and maintenance initiatives in the Arboretum landscape.
For several years, the Arnold Arboretum has used an air spade as a vital component of its plant health program. This tool converts compressed air (typically 90 to 100 psi) into a supersonic jet, producing exit velocities of over Mach 1.6 (nearly 1,200 mph) to break up compacted soils, provide deep root aeration, and enable vertical mulching to improve soil condition. Additionally, when mature plants need to be transplanted in the Arboretum landscape, the air spade can be used to remove the soil from their roots without mechanical impact and with minimal damage to tender root systems.
Already a part of the Arboretum’s equipment arsenal, the air spade requires the use of a large tow-behind air compressor for its operation, which until now has been rented for specific projects. With the acquisition of the air compressor unit, the horticulture staff can exercise greater flexibility and efficiency in using the tool as a part of its standard operations for plant care and health.
“The Arboretum’s collections represent an invaluable resource to science as well as the visiting public,” said Arboretum Director William (Ned) Friedman. “Everything we do in research and education revolves around the 15,000 curated organisms in our landscape, so ensuring their vigor and long life is absolutely essential. We’re delighted to have the kind support of the Arnold Arboretum Committee to help us make the most of our efforts to improve the condition of our plants.”
Since the implementation of its Landscape Management Plan in 2007, the Arnold Arboretum has made significant advancements in increasing the level of care of the living collections. New tools and technology like the air spade and its air compressor contribute to an enhanced approach to plant health. As the Arboretum increases public awareness of its renowned collections and encourages their use for research, these and other strategies enable horticulture staff to decrease harmful impacts on root systems occasioned by foot traffic in the landscape.