Loosening up Compacted Soil

There are a variety of ways to break up your compacted soil, but the best plan is to avoid compaction all together with a “raised bed”.

To loosen up compacted soil, back-turn it with a fork, take out any visible clay, and add peat moss to lighten it. That’s the most elementary cure. There are more sophisticated ways, but they are not nearly as practical as starting fresh with…

Raised Beds

Soil compaction doesn’t generally happen in raised beds, because the soil is above the ground and out of foot-traffic. And because you are building it from the ground up, you completely control what goes into it, eliminating the clay altogether. As long as you steer clear from “yard dirt”, and don’t use heavy top soil, you aren’t going to have dense dirt. (Check out my link on “layering your soil” for an easy planting formula).

If you build it with the right dimensions (i.e. narrow enough for you to reach each plant), then you should never need to walk or lean on it at all. This eliminates all compaction due to traffic or pressure on your soil.

So, there you have it–your two main causes of soil compaction,
traffic and heavy soil, completely eliminated with a raised bed.

Now, it is important right now to cover one other topic, and that is the natural shifting of the soil when you water.

Have you ever had a big mound of dirt around something like a new tree, watered it, and watched the mound go down? That’s an example of this. Not only did the dirt go down, but when it settled, the pores of the dirt compacted slightly. You can’t avoid this in nature. This is not a cause of “serious” soil compaction, but it is technically a mild case of it; and it happens everywhere in your garden.

So, while I (and most honest gardeners) would not label “watering” as a true example of soil compaction, it is important to mention it here. After all, if we want the fluffiest soil possible, then we need to look at everything.

Mostly, I want my post here to be accurate when I tell you that a raised bed eliminates all soil compaction. Technically speaking, nothing can. But for all intents and purposes, raised beds do.

And by the way, if you want to loosen up the soil in the raised bed without lifting a finger, just dump in some nice night crawlers. They’ll loosen your dirt for free, and leave some fertilizer for you )

Published in: on September 15, 2007 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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