How Soil Compaction Affects Your Trees

May 5, 2021 | By Aaron Capannelli

Your trees are dependent on nutrients, water, sunlight, and air to live. Their food and water are absorbed through their roots. If your soil is not supplying the roots properly, your trees will be struggling. The primary hindrance to your roots getting what they need is soil compaction. Operated by a certified arborist, 770-Tree-Guy wants to help your trees stay healthy and beautiful. We offer plant health care services to ensure your trees can thrive in the soil they are in.

Why Soil Compaction Matters

When your soil is compacted, it is hard and difficult for water, air, and nutrients to penetrate. Also, the roots of your tree will struggle to get to their needed resources. Essentially, soil compaction eliminates the air pockets which usually allow proper absorption and movement in your soil. Your soil will not be able to absorb water properly and could cause water run-off, which could require irrigation solutions. Nutrients in your soil will be stuck and unable to reach the tree’s roots easily. Not only will your roots be starving, but they also need to have some breathing room to grow and prosper beneath ground. Your tree will eventually show the impact from what is happening in the soil, but it might be much harder to remedy the soil problem by then. The most common tree issue from soil compaction is poor plant growth. As with most tree issues, being proactive with your tree maintenance is well worth your efforts. Fixing problems is much more challenging than just nourishing your tree properly from the start.

Common Signs and Causes of Soil Compaction
  • Soil is Too Hard — If you have previously cultivated the soil too much, you could have caused the first 10-12 inches of your soil to become hard. Your soil is probably compacted if you have a hard time penetrating it with a shovel.
  • Standing Water on Top — If water has pooled on top of your soil, your soil could be compacted, which is keeping it from absorbing properly into the soil.
  • Water Running Off Excessively — If there is poor movement in your soil or low permeability, your soil may be too saturated as well as compacted.
  • Growing Problems in Your Plants and Trees — Compacted soil cannot properly supply plants and trees, so if nothing grows or grows well at least, you likely have a soil compaction problem.
  • Density Problems— W hen the bulk density is high, the reduced pore space will limit the water and air which circulates in your soil.
  • Crust on Top — If the top of your soil has a hard crust, your soil has likely become compacted due to foot traffic. This issue is common on walking paths and playgrounds.
Solutions for Soil Compaction
  • Add Air — The aeration process makes small holes in your soil to allow water and air to enter your soil properly. Your whole yard may need aeration, or you could just take a small hand tool to aerate around your plants. You should be careful to avoid damaging your roots and plants.
  • Feed Your Soil — Mulch delivers a surge of nutrients right where your trees need it. You can even mix 8-10 inches of compost into your compacted soil and add the mulch on top for an extra boost. A little goes a long way with mulch so only add about a 3 inch layer in a 3-6 foot diameter around the tree. Leave a donut shaped hole around the trunk of the tree. Mulch around the trunk can encourage pests, mold, and diseases. If you need some quality mulch, we make our own organic mulch in multiple colors to suit your landscaping
  • Welcome Worms — Placing mulch alone can encourage worms to move into your soil, but you can add some earthworms of your own. Worms can do wonders for your soil and break up the compaction issues.

If you need help with your soil compaction issues, inquire about Plant Health Care Services at 770-Tree-Guy! We can help restore the health of your trees.

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