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  

Don’t Choke Your Roses

Even if your roses have good drainage, they will still suffocate if you have too much clay in your soil. Too much clay can kill your roses. When the clay dries, it hardens tightly around the roots, suffocating them.

The roots of all plants need room to to breathe, and this is especially true of roses. We already discussed, in the post above, how your roses’ roots don’t like to get too wet. See, rose roots need good circulation. Not too much air around them, but a porous soil with some air pockets. This allows the roots to stay drier and move around, when there is not a lot of soil weighing heavy on them. That’s why light fluffy soil is far better than the dense, clay-like soil found in most yards. Soil like this is called compacted soil.

Solid soil

Compacted soil happens when the soil is too close together to allow any air in.  Soil compaction occurs when their is too much dense material (like clay) in your soil, but it also happens when your garden is tromped on. Every time you step on the soil, you cause it to press together, packing it down tightly. Some traffic is natural, but over time, too many visitors marching on your front yard leads to soil compaction.

Imagine a sponge and it’s cells. When you press on a sponge, those cells squish together, and all of the water squeezes out. That’s how compacted soil is—stepped on often enough, the “pores” in the soils compact, making it difficult for the roots to move and breathe; they suffocate.


The solution to compacted soil is to get lots of of healthy air pockets in your soil. Now, you don’t want too many air pockets–then your soil will shift down low when you water (causing compaction, and defeating your purpose). And you don’t want the air pockets to be too big around the roots, because you need to keep at least some soil right around the roots so they are not exposed. The perfect soil will have micro bubbles of air interspersed in the soil. This is called “aeration”. When you have the right size of air pockets spaced the right distance from each other, than you know that you your soil is properly aerated.

So, how do we achieve this perfect, non compacted soil? In other words, what is the formula ? Read on my friends.

Published in: on September 15, 2007 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Secret Formula for Roses that Rock

Here is the best combination for most roses

In this order, layer these ingredients. (Measurements are for one bush in one raised bed)

First layer: Some nice organic material (it’s called compost)– you can get this at a variety of gardening centers or hardware stores. Just plop a nice layer on the bottom of the bed, oh, about an inch high, maybe even two (there’s no precise measurement, just use your noodle).

Second layer: A heaping scoop of bone marrow. Just use a measuring cup from the cupboard, and sprinkle over the compost evenly.

Third Layer: Some peat moss (also called humus).

I’ll go into the specifics of these in a moment…for now, just get the basics down, as you read through.

You don’t need to mix this up at all—you really don’t. It’s layered just right and doesn’t need stirring of any kind—just plop it in in the correct order, pouring around your bush as you go. You will have to eyeball your bush a little bit and adjust it as you work, so that the root ball and the bud union are underground. Just work with it gently till it’s positioned properly. Mound the soil up an extra amount around the bottom branches until the plant is established.

Finally, remember that, growing roses is not rocket science (though you might think so, the way that some people talk about it, in mysterious tones). Follow the right rules for each plant, and you can grow absolutely anything God gave us

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
%d bloggers like this: