What is soil compaction and why is it bad?

When it comes to the soil around your property, it is ideal for it to have just the right grade or compaction, especially when you are planning to have your very own garden. Sure, we know that soil should be stable for our foundation, which is why they need to be compressed. But is there such a thing as too much compacted soil?

Unfortunately, yes, having compacted soil can be bad. Just imagine this: since the soil in your area is too compressed, then it will be difficult for it to allow moisture, roots, air, and decomposers to pass through. When this happens, it is fairly common for plant and tree roots to be malnourished and eventually suffocate. This is exactly why the soil should have the right structure to allow the necessary elements to pass through without being too soft or sandy. As a result, it will be much easier to prevent waterlogging and have healthier plants instead.  Here are some signs to look for when it comes to soil compaction.

How do you fix soil compaction?

Compacted soil often decreases the particles and pore spaces in between the material, which restricts the air and nutrients in the soil. Oftentimes, the soil is not that compacted to begin with. However, one of the main reasons why they become compressed is after the use of heavy machinery in the property. This happens after a grading or leveling project in the area. Aside from the use of heavy equipment, even years of foot traffic can compact the soil severely.

Is there something you can do to fix compacted soil? Absolutely. If you want to encourage plant growth in your area, you can try the following solutions to ease the compression.

Tips to decompress your soil

1)    Use an aerator

Aerating the soil around your property is one of the most effective methods you can make use of to reduce the compaction. This is because it makes space to allow air and moisture to pass through the material by inserting tiny plugs or puncturing holes in the lawn to give it room to aerate.

2)    Put some gypsum

Gypsum is a non-toxic sulfate mineral you efficiently use to break up compacted soil by reducing its salt levels. As a result, this will make the soil more able to absorb moisture which then makes it have an improved air circulation. However, just remember that this solution should be repeated every now and then since the mineral is only effective for a short time.

3)    Place organic matter

Aside from gypsum, placing organic material such as mulch can be very beneficial to your soil and the vegetation on it. Not only are they more cost-effective, but you can certainly rely on mulch or compost to fix your soil compaction problems. This is because these organic materials are proven to do their job in reducing the density of the soil, making it less compact and allowing water and air in.

4)    Burying the soil

In situations where the compacted soil is located in a large area, it may be expensive to make use of other methods to fix the issue. Because of this, experts recommend burying the compressed soil with one that has better properties and drainage capabilities. This technique is usually done by laying around 15 inches of new soil over the existing soil to allow the vegetation to have a better chance of survival.

5)    Replacing the soil

Finally, if you only have a small area or if you have the budget to do so, then another method would be to replace the soil before proceeding with your gardening or landscaping project. This is usually done by removing the existing soil and replacing the improved unto the excavated area.

How do you fix compacted clay soil?

Having to work with clay soil for your gardening can be stressful and challenging. Although they are seen to have a lot of nutrients, hard-packed clay can be a problem due to its properties that restrict water movement. Since the material is stubborn, it can be twice as difficult to fix compacted clay soil compared to the other soil types.

Here are the most common decompaction ways experts recommend doing:

Mix organic materials with the clay soil

As mentioned earlier, adding organic materials to the clay soil can help ease its compaction. For example, you can add composted leaves, grass clippings, or mulch into the soil to improve its condition. Also, organic materials attract decomposers and earthworms which will help aerate the clay at a significant amount.

Plant green manure crops

Planting crops on top of the clay soil also makes it less compact by introducing and encouraging microbial activity in the surrounding area. It also adds nutrients to the soil which would make it improve its texture as time goes by.

Add the right amount of gypsum

Applying gypsum to the surface of your clay soil can loosen the compaction and allows it to aerate better. This mineral is usually distributed using a lawn spreader.

Can I put topsoil over clay?

In order to solve the problem of a clogged and compacted clay soil, some people say that adding topsoil on top of it can fix the solution. In many situations, this can surely be effective, however, it is important to remember that simply adding another soil on top of the problematic one will not completely make the problem go away. This is because it is simply covering the issue without solving the root problem.

To improve the method, mixing organic material into the existing clay before covering it with topsoil will be your best option. This way, you are not wasting your topsoil and you can use it to improve the condition of the clay underneath over time.

If you're looking for a professional to help with soil compaction then feel free to give our office a call.  We'd be happy to help in any way we can.