For many homeowners, soil compaction is a significant issue. Lack of air and water can lead to compaction happening in areas that might seem healthy. As the weight of the dried-out soil on top it increases, so does its hardness. This can cause many problems, from poor drainage to dead soil.
We use various methods to increase air and water circulation that will help improve the porosity of your soil.
So what causes soil compaction? Compaction happens when the density of the soil increases, limiting the flow of water and oxygen to the ground. A variety of factors can cause this. Constant foot (or paw) traffic is probably the most common cause. High traffic areas are compacted by the weight of the walker coupled with gravity and this causes the soil to degrade. You can also get compaction from constant exposure to the sun. When water evaporates from an area faster than it can disperse, the soil pores tighten up to fill that space, causing compaction. Amending the topsoil and adding organic matter are two of the ways that soil compaction can be corrected.
Soil aeration removes plugs of dirt from the area so that water and oxygen can penetrate the surrounding soil. This causes aerobic bacteria to decompose the dead organic matter that occurs naturally in your yard and creates healthy soil that can sustain its pore size allowing water and oxygen to flow naturally. This is not a one-time fix. Aeration is something that should be viewed as a maintenance practice that should be performed every few years.
Tillage is a more extreme method of fighting soil compaction. Tillage is exactly as it sounds, tilling or digging through the soil while working. This method is ideal for annual flower beds and vegetable gardens but is not advisable for an entire yard. Tilling will damage any turf grass that you have planted and will cause a muddy mess until the turf grows back. Save this for areas where there is no established turf.
Lime is a mineral that can be added to your soil to help it maintain its porosity. Lime doesn’t have to be spread out evenly but should be applied to the areas where you’re facing the most compaction. A soil test will be needed to check the pH balance of the soil and then the lime will be applied at least two or three times a year. Unlike compost, it doesn’t take that long for the action of lime to take effect. This is also something that should be considered a lawn maintenance item to prevent compaction and keep your soil healthy.