Conference set to focus on importance of soils

The importance of soils to landscape design and maintenance as well as its impact on the wider environment will be key subjects at the second SoilsCon on 5 October.

Event organiser Tim O'Hare notes an increasing interest in soils. Image: Supplied

The event, focusing on that most fundamental of landscape and gardening materials, will be significantly larger at 150 seats against last year's 90, with speakers including The Landscape Group regional operations director Alistair Bayford and this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show best in show winner Andy Sturgeon, who will draw on his experience using soils to get the best design results.

Organiser and soil scientist Tim O'Hare of Tim O'Hare Associates, whose work on the remediation of the Olympic Park brought the importance of soils to a wider audience, said there is increasing interest in the substance. He worked on a Defra code of practice for the sustainable use of soils on building sites - guidance that is increasingly followed in construction schemes.

"It's getting better. It's taken a while to filter out into the industry but it's started now at local authority-level planning departments. Many now have a soil management strategy and that's filtering down to landscape architects. There are links in with SuDS strategy," he said.

O'Hare will talk about the "big issue" of compaction, which increases water run-off and the risk of flooding. "More and more of our work these days is indirectly or directly related to compaction. It's still a consistent problem. It's also something that can be avoided," he added.

"Soil is one of the most important components of a SuDS scheme. I see a lot of drawings showing swales and so on but actually soil is the biggest form of attenuation of any system of habitation creation and habitation management."

At the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) and Jubilee Gardens in London, where extensive soil works were completed, using the right soils has had a positive impact on maintenance but also "requires very specific management to support the horticultural assets that are supported by them", according to Bayford, whose company holds the 10-year park management and maintenance contract at QEOP.

"It was new, never been done before and therefore pioneering so a lot of our time is spent troubleshooting, for want of a better word.

I will focus the roles we play as contractor, how working with the design and construction teams has enabled knowledge transfer and how we have fed back into the story as we experience the soils," he said.

Bayford will also speak about maintenance activities that form the basis of good soil management on sites such as The Regent's Park and Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

Treework Environmental Practice managing director Luke Fay will explore the importance of soil to trees, while soil scientist Tim White will discuss soils and wild flower grasslands. Leap Environmental director Richard Brinkworth will examine contaminated land and British Sugar Topsoil national topsoil manager Andy Spetch will give insight into the process of manufacturing sustainable topsoils.

- SoilsCon is at Phyllis Court, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire on 5 October. See

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