What to Do When Soil is Compacted

Soil gets compacted when air pockets between the components of soil collapse. This typically happens when there’s a lot of traffic in an area, such as when people are constantly walking around it (like at parks and outdoor concert venues), or when cars and heavy machinery pass through the area frequently. Soil also gets compacted when it doesn’t have enough organic material in it that prevents stickiness.

Several other reasons may lead to compacted soil. But regardless of the reason, compacted soil is a cause of serious concern as the condition makes it difficult for plants to grow and stay healthy. Roots struggle to grow deep, and therefore cannot get enough nutrients and water. It becomes common for roots to suffocate because water cannot seep through the ground. This of course usually leads to plant diseases or even the early demise of a plant.

The Role of Aeration

There are various strategies on how to reduce soil compaction and aeration is the most important one. Perforating the soil with holes to allow air, water and nutrients will improve growth of grass and other plants.

You can hire gardening experts for this task to get it done properly faster because they have the right aerating tools and skills for the job. A proven technique is to use plug aerators, which remove a core or plug of grass and soil from the lawn. The excavated soil plugs are allowed to dry and once dry, the soil is broken up through mowing. This is deemed a reliable way to aerate because the process doesn’t create compaction around the holes.

On the other hand, you don’t want to frequently aerate your soil especially because it’s a lot of work and only optimally effective during specific times of the year. These soil compaction preventive strategies can be your contribution.

  • Work organic materials such as compost and peat moss into your soil. These can help fluff up your soil.
  • Try using gypsum. This is particularly helpful for heavy clay soils that make it difficult for grass roots to thrive. Gypsum is a soft white-grey mineral known as a “clay breaker” and it helps to improve the physical condition of heavy clay soils, which are more common in certain parts of the country such as Wimmera.
  • For small gardens, earthworms can be added to plant beds that have problems with soil compaction. The worms will literally eat their way through compacted soil, leaving behind burrows and droppings that help to aerate and fertilize the ground.
  • Put up a “Keep Off the Grass” sign. Foot traffic is one of the known reasons for compacted soil so avoiding or lessening it can ensure good physical condition of the soil.

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