In our gardens we look at the beauty above the ground with great interest. Beautiful stems and flowers atop brightly coloured leaves. Its what we see every day. The health of this visible part of the plant is a refection of the parts below ground. We must be aware of the health of the root zone above all else. The roots are at least equal to the size of the above ground parts and sometimes even larger. I like to think of the roots as the Lungs of the plant. This helps me remember that the roots need oxygen to live and thrive.
The plant makes carbohydrates in the leaves and distribute this food to all the cells of the plant. Once these carbs arrive at their target area the cells use oxygen to oxidize these sugars to make energy to keep these parts alive and functioning. The roots are the farthest from the leaves and have no ability to make food for them selves so are in constant need of carbs and oxygen.
Roots exist in an underground world that can be fragile at times. When water floods an area the roots may drown and die due to the inability to process carbs. Soils are also susceptible to compaction that can force air out of soil and prevent it from returning. Compacted soils provide little to the existence of plants.
Plant roots are usually located close to the surface of soil as they need to access rain water even if there is only a small amount. These surface roots also access nitrogen which is the plants most important nutrient and is often provided directly out of the atmosphere. I find that free draining soil allows water to infiltrate easily and travel through the soil pulling fresh air along with it providing a nice breath of air with each watering. Also when soils are allowed to dry out between watering it allows air to replace water in the soil mass again replenishing the vital oxygen needed. I also think about all the wonderful insects and worms that provide tunnels into the ground providing meany passageways for gases to travel. Plants really need this work force to help build a healthy living environment.
Hopefully after reading this bit of information you will think differently about the greenery in your garden and do what you can to assist your plants to having a breathable soil condition for a healthy future.