Builders, developers, and landscapers

are adopting practices that preserve and improve the soil on building sites, grow healthier landscapes, and protect waterways. Local governments are beginning to require these practices.

5 Steps to Building Soil

Best management practices (BMPs) during construction:
  1. Retain and protect native topsoil & vegetation where practical
  2. Restore disturbed soils, to restore healthy soil functions, by:
    • stockpiling & reusing good quality site soil, or
    • tilling 2-3" of compost into poor site soils, or
    • bringing in 8" of compost- amended topsoil
  3. Loosen compacted subsoil, if needed, by ripping to 12" depth
  4. Mulch landscape beds after planting
  5. Protect restored soils from erosion or re-compaction by heavy equipment

Successful Projects

At Redmond Ridge, Quadrant Homes fences and protects existing forest as an amenity and stormwater filter. Then they grade to 12 inches below finish grade, stockpiling the topsoil. Next step is to place rock pads for roads and driveways.
Once foundations are in and houses are framed and sided, 14 inches of compost-amended reused soil is placed (to allow for settling to 12-inch finish grade). The compost blend prevents erosion, so work can proceed year-round.
On many sites (here in a Snohomish home remodel) it is more cost effective to till compost into the existing soil. Tilling 2-3 inches of compost into any soil – sand, clay or till – makes planting easier and grows a healthier landscape.
At Shamrock Heights, Cam West Development combines a traditional feel with innovative stormwater methods. Reuse of high-quality site soil, plus mulching, support a vibrant landscape.
At Issaquah Highlands, Port Blakely Communities uses compost blankets for erosion control and cost-effective vegetation establishment on slopes.
Port Blakely also uses compost-amended soils in park and home landscapes, for a high-end, quality product that sells, and attracts future customers too!

Selling Healthy Soil

pro’s and homebuyers agree on the value

Jim Berger, Construction Manager for Port Blakely Communities at Issaquah Highlands, says "These soil practices work better than anything we’ve tried – plants survive the first winter, and slopes don’t need to be fixed later. It’s a key part of our sustainable building program. Using compost blankets on slopes and compost soil amendments throughout the project not only prevents erosion right away – it gives us great vegetation establishment, even on difficult sites."

Jeff Cox , ASLA, of Triad Associates confirms, "Placing amended soils or stockpiling topsoils has front-end costs, but there can be long-term savings and benefits, from healthier plant material, better growing medium, and water quality improvements."

Greg Rabourn, co-host of Yard Talk TV show adds, "Plants aren’t cheap! Replacing them costs time and money. Spending a little on the soil saves money on water, plant replacement, and landscape chemicals. And a healthy, vibrant landscape is better for sale value."

Site planning consultant Howard Stenn notes, "Preserving areas of undisturbed vegetation saves on stormwater detention, landscaping, and development costs. Compost soil amendment makes for quicker planting and faster establishment. There’s no doubt these practices help sell a project."

Jim Thompson, a Shamrock Heights homeowner says, "It adds value to the home now while we live in it, and for the future when we sell. I think it adds great value to the community too."