Is Your Soil Too Compacted Around Your Tree?

The problem of soil compaction is an obstacle for many homeowners. With many residential properties having areas of significant soil compactions, this issue cannot be ignored—however, recent technologies have made it easier to effectively treat compaction problems.

How does soil compaction occur?

In the simple sense, soil compaction occurs when some event or object collapses the air pockets in between the components in the soil. A common way for this to occur is pressure from foot traffic or heavy objects, like cars, or an area that is walked on frequently. Compacted soil also happens when the ground is worked in less than ideal conditions. If the soil is too wet when you till for instance, the structure of the soil can collapse. If the soil does not have enough organic material to “fluff it up,” the parts of the soil can settle together.

Why is soil compaction a problem?

Any excessive soil compaction can impede the roots’ growth and limit the amount of soil explored by the roots. This can then decrease the plant’s ability to take up nutrients and water. In relation to trees and plants, the adverse effect of soil compaction on water flow and storage can be more serious than the direct effect of soil compaction on root growth. Especially during times of dry weather, soil compaction can lead to weak, stunted plants due to decrease root growth. On the opposite end, soil compaction in times of wet weather can decrease soil aeration, causing increased denitfrication (loss of nirate-nitrogen elements). 


The best way to improve soil compaction is to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. First thing you can do is avoid tilling your soil when it is too wet or too dry. Additionally, if you must till, try for no more than once a year. If you are aiming to loosen compacting soil, you can do it in several ways. For larger areas, like lawns, you can use an aerator to puncture the ground giving the soil room to decompress. For smaller areas, like a garden, you can work in compost, peat moss and gypsum that can be used for loosening compacted soil. Earthworms can also be added to garden beds that have problems with soil compaction that will literally eat their way through compacted soil.

Improving compacted soil can make a world of difference in your garden or lawn. Taking the steps to improve soil compaction is well worth the extra effort. If you still have questions on soil compaction and how it affects you, give our team a call!