All About Marginal Soils Part 3 of 3: What This Means For Silva Cell Projects

In Part 1 of this series I talked about the basics of soil compaction and how soils are broken, and in Part 2 I discussed whether and how broken soils can be fixed. Today, in Part 3, we’ll look at how this information is relevant for people considering using the Silva Cell in their projects.

Because the Silva Cell is simply a soil containment/delivery system, for many projects there is no need to haul in topsoil from elsewhere. Native soils are often the most suitable for the site and specified plantings. Existing soil, even if it is degraded, can often be re-used if mixed with compost made from organic waste such as leaves, lawn clippings, and food scraps.

For lake- and river-adjacent cities, there may be opportunities for turning waste products like dredge soils into a valuable resource. The Silva Cells can be filled with this rich media to nourish tree growth the same way a topsoil would. Dredge soils are typically available in these communities, as dredging is an on-going activity.

Whatever soil you specify and install in the Silva Cell, ensure that the bulk densities are suitable for tree growth. Once the soil is in the system, it is protected from compaction by the Cell’s structure, and will not become degraded due to foot or vehicular traffic.


  • Center for Watershed Protection Article 37.Technical Note # 108 from Watershed Protection Techniques 1(4) 666-669. Can Urban Soil Compaction be Reversed?
  • Center for Watershed Protection Article 36.Technical Note # 107 from Watershed Protection Techniques 3(2) 661-665. The Compaction of Urban Soils.
  • Daniels, W.L., G.R. Whittecar, and Charles H. Carter III. Conversion of Potomac River Dredge Sediments to Productive Agricultural Soils. Presented at 2007 National Meeting of Amer. Soc. Of Surface Mining and Reclamation, Gillette WY, June 2-7, 2007. ASMR 3134 Montevesta Dr. Lexington, KY.
  • Virginia Tech’s Soil Rehabilitation Experiment

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