Over 130 delegates at last week’s SoilsCon 2019 heard key industry speakers promote sustainable soil practices in landscaping and construction. House builders, landscape architects, garden designers, contractors, and topsoil suppliers attended the fourth annual soils conference at Phyllis Court, Henley-on-Thames, organised by soil scientist and landscape consultant Tim O’Hare.
 
Subjects covered included using soils sustainably in landscape projects, the management and preparation of back garden soils, and recycling and conditioning topsoil.
 
Following a brief introduction by Tim O’Hare, Neville Fay, a chartered arboriculturist and Founder/Director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance was first to speak. He explained the vital mutually supportive relationship between trees and soils and the threats posed by the loss of c. 2.9 million tonnes of topsoil a year.
 
Next up to the podium was Tim O’Hare, who delivered a masterclass in sustainable soil use in landscape projects.
 
After the morning break, during which a Soil Surgery was held, staffed by soil scientists from Tim O’Hare Associates, the next speaker was Sarah Morgan, garden designer, horticulturist, lecturer and Chair of the Society of Garden Designers (SGD). Sarah’s presentation demonstrated why knowledge of geology and soil should influence the design of landscape projects if they are to be successful in the long-term.
 
Closing the morning’s presentations was Tim White, Senior Associate at Tim O’Hare Associates, who talked about the management and preparation of back garden soils.
 
After lunch, soils scientist Simon Leake, Managing Director of SESL Australia, discussed the design of low fertility soils, referencing the Barangaroo project in Sydney for which he designed the project soils.
 
Following on with the theme of manufactured soils, the next speaker was Andy Spetch, National TOPSOIL Manager at British Sugar plc.
 
Choosing and using mulches was the day’s penultimate presentation, delivered by Catherine Dawson, Technical Director of Melcourt Industries.
 
The day’s final presentation, and possibly the most photogenic, was on Wildflowers – superheroes of green infrastructure and urban greening, delivered by Helen Gillespie-Brown, Business Development Manager at Wildflower Turf.
 
Commenting on the day Tim O’Hare said:
 
“This year’s conference was incredibly informative and provided a rounded approach to using soils more sustainably. It was obvious from the comments we received on the day, and in the feedback, that delegates appreciated the breadth of subject matter and went away much better informed and able to apply the knowledge in their work. I am indebted to the amazing speakers who without exception brought the subject to life for those in the audience and I hope that many of those who attended will now actively support the work of the Sustainable Soils Alliance in its mission to seek fundamental change in the way soils are regarded and treated.”