How to Tell if Soil is Compacted Around Trees and What to Do

How to Tell if Soil is Compacted Around Trees and What to Do

There’s something so satisfying about watering our trees each week and watching it seep into the soil. Plus, it’s one of the best ways we can give our plants a little TLC.

As we watch the water disappear, we don’t know what’s happening beneath the surface. Trees often suffer from a common problem lurking underground that’s hard to see–compacted soil.

Learn a few remedies for soil compaction to help your trees now and make it easier to plant new trees, too.But first, test your soil for symptoms.

Compacted Soil Around Trees – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Restoration

Why is compacted soil a problem around trees and plants?

As you walk or have heavy equipment like lawn mowers zip over the ground near your tree, the weight packs soil particles closer together. So, your tree’s soil becomes compacted.

Consequently, compacted soil makes it difficult for…

  • Water to flow through to the tree roots, causing runoff and dehydration.

  • Roots to get enough nutrients, leading to slowed growth.

  • The tree to thrive because of the lack of water and limited air flow.

How do I know if my tree has compacted soil?

If your tree seems to be struggling and isn’t growing much, look for these signs of soil compaction.

Then, get ready to test! All you need is a screwdriver. When compacted, it’s difficult to push the screwdriver deep down. Or, cut out a chunk of soil to sneak a peek. If your soil is compacted, it will look dull, grayish and awfully dry.

I’m thinking about planting trees in compacted soil. Is that ok?

Hold off on planting new trees until you fix the soil problem. Adding new plants to suffering soil will set them up for a slow, weak start.

How can I restore my compacted soil?

If the problem is minor, mix compost into the top 8 to 10 inches of soil to add a surge of nutrients. Then, create a mulch ring around the tree. Just be sure to avoid volcano mulching! Hopefully, this will prevent people (and lawn mowers) from compacting the soil again.

And ready for this? Add earthworms! Since they’re attracted to mulch, they may even gather there naturally! Worms eat through compacted soil, helping restore a healthy flow of air and water.

If the problem seems more serious (and you may need an arborist to confirm that), try aerating or vertical mulching. By drilling holes into the soil, you break up those compressed particles and provide more air. So, your tree will be able to breathe easier and have better access to nutrients.

Learn more about how vertical mulching helps remedy compacted soil here!

Add a comment:
Featured or Related Blog Posts
  • Root in Moisture

    Planting trees is just half the battle.

    The diseases, pests and power equipment that emerge outdoors in spring, accompanying frequent sunlight, longer days and warmer temperatures, can wreak havoc on your trees if you don't put forth the effort to protect them.

    To keep your trees healthy throughout the growing season and beyond, you must practice routine maintenance and proper tree care. One way to help trees retain moisture, reduce weeds and keep power equipment at a safe distance is through mulch. In the coming weeks, you'll see piles of fresh mulch lined along neighborhood driveways. Soon, the coarse, fragrant matter will settle among flower and tree beds, enhancing the quality of landscapes' appearances.

    Read More
  • Back to School ... For Your Trees

    New jeans and new shoes - wrinkle and dirt free.

    A new backpack filled with pencils, pens and notebooks in vibrant colors - not a doodle or crease in sight.

    Greeting a new schedule with anticipation, excitement and a little bit of nervousness.

    Read More
  • Bug Battles

    It's a late afternoon on a warm spring day. You walk over to the kitchen window, grasp the tiny handles at the base and lift up.

    With even a mere inch of screen exposed, you feel a cool, crisp breeze. You smell fresh grass clippings lingering in the air. And you hear the slightest sound of activity dancing through the yard - no words, just varied tones that highlight chirping birds, busy bees and nosy critters.

    But in the midst of enjoying spring sounds through your window, you catch a glimpse of a large, green beetle buzz past your ear.

    Read More
  • The (Sweet) Sound of Summer

    Summertime is here. And after the elongated cool season we experienced in the first half of the year, how sweet does that sound?

    When I think of summer, I imagine driving down the old, country roads of my hometown on a sunny afternoon, windows wide open to not only welcome in the fresh breeze from outside but also to share the tunes emitting from my stereo with the open air surrounding me. I can nearly taste summer's supply of fresh produce and cool treats; not to mention the sound of a sizzling grill during a relaxing family cookout.

    But the ability to spend ample time in my landscape during summer months sounds most appealing to me. I hear the trickle of water droplets falling and resting on green leaves, soft petals and moist earth when I spray the hose. A crisp breeze whistles within the tree canopies above me. I sense the buzzing of bees as they mingle about my landscape, pollinating the precious plants I've tended to for weeks.

    Read More
  • What Do I Do with My Garden and Lawn in the Fall?

    Did you know trees shed their leaves to prepare for winter? It helps them conserve water and energy.

    As you see bare trees, you, too, can begin putting your garden and landscape to bed for the season.

     

    Read More

Request a consultation

What do you need services for?
Sorry, we can’t seem to find the zip code you specified. Our residential tree care offices may not service your area. If you believe this is an error, please try again. Need help? Email us at info@davey.com.
  • Email newsletter
  • Woodchips
*Please fill out all required fields.