How To Prevent Soil Compaction In Raised Garden Bed
Raised garden beds are an excellent complement to any garden, especially when space is limited. They are more efficient and easier to maintain than traditional underground gardens. Unfortunately, soil compaction is a common problem affecting root infiltration and drainage of raised garden beds.
The following are ways to prevent soil compaction in raised garden beds:
- Avoid walking on the soil.
- Add organic matter every spring.
- Place boards or stones around the bed.
- Use manual tiller.
- Avoid using electric equipment.
- Avoid over watering.
- Cover weight.
- Plants cover crops.
- Use raised garden bedspread.
Compaction of the soil will cause serious damage to your raised garden bed gardens and plants. So read on to learn more about how to prevent soil compaction in a raised garden bed.
- Avoid walking on the soil
One of the best ways to prevent soil compaction is to avoid walking or kneeling in the garden. When the soil particle pressure is too large, soil compaction will occur, causing them to be pressed together. When you walk or kneel on the soil of the raised garden bed, you will exert too much pressure on it to make it compact.
Of course, this is not a problem for smaller raised garden beds.
When soil compaction occurs, soil density and porosity increase, making it difficult for the root to penetrate and drain. This can cause problems with your plant, such as yellowing leaves, slow growth, and wilting (to name a few).
To avoid compacting the soil in the raised garden bed, place wide boards or stepping stones around the bed. This creates a path that you can use to access your plants without walking through the soil. You can also place mulch or straw around the plant to create a path and evenly distribute the weight.
- Add organic matter every spring
Adding organic matter to soil is one of the best methods to improve its structural integrity and prevent compaction. Organic matter such as compost, manure and leaves hold soil particles together like glue, making them harder to compact.
The development of organic soil structure can improve drainage and aeration, and increase soil water holding capacity.
Since organic matter will decompose before stabilization, it will release nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and magnesium, all of which are crucial to plant growth.
This practice also increases the activity of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, which helps to decompose organic matter and release more nutrients. Although you can add organic matter to the soil at any time, it is best to do so when planting garden beds in spring.
This allows time for organic matter to decompose and improve the soil structure before the start of the growing season. Add two to four inches (5 – 10 cm) of organic matter to the soil of the raised garden bed each spring to maintain a healthy soil structure and prevent compaction.
- Place boards or stones around the bed
Due to the need for regular plant maintenance and soil improvement, you may find yourself frequently walking around the beautiful bed in a raised garden. Although it may be tempting to take shortcuts and walk on the soil of the raised garden bed, resist the impulse!
Walking on the soil will cause the particles to be compacted when pressure is applied.
Placing a wide slab or stepping stone around a raised garden bed is a great way to create a path that you can use to enter the plant without compacting the soil. When you walk on boards or stones, your weight will be evenly distributed and will not compact the ground below them.
In addition, the use of wide slabs or stones will help prevent the soil in the raised garden bed from being eroded by runoff. Since boards or stones will act as barriers, they will help prevent water from flowing directly onto the soil and washing it away.
- Use the hand cultivator to loosen the soil
If you notice that the soil in the raised garden bed is compacted, you can loosen it with a hand tiller.
Loose soil particles help to aerate the soil, which is essential for plant growth. The aeration soil has better drainage effect and larger air circulation space, both of which are necessary for the growth of healthy plant roots.
The roots of plants can easily penetrate the loose aerated soil, and can obtain the air and water needed for healthy growth.
- Avoid using electric equipment
Although power equipment such as lawn mowers and tillers can shorten garden tasks, they can also compact the soil in the raised garden bed.
Again, this is usually not a problem for smaller beds, but if you work on large raised garden beds, you need to keep this in mind.
The weight of the power equipment combined with the rotating blades or sharp teeth will compress the soil, making it more difficult for the plant roots to penetrate.
Electrical equipment can also form a hard layer under the soil surface. A hard pan is a layer of compacted soil that prevents water and air from moving freely through the soil. This can lead to drainage problems and limit the amount of oxygen available to the plant roots.
If you need to cultivate the soil on the raised garden bed, consider using a manual cultivator or hoe instead of power equipment. These tools are much lighter and do not compact the soil easily. They may take longer to use, but in the long run, your plants will be happier and healthier.
- Avoid over watering
Although watering plants is critical to their growth, over watering can also lead to compaction of the soil. When the soil is too wet, the particles will be covered by water and stick together, making it more difficult to penetrate the root.
In addition, over watering can cause drainage problems because the soil is already saturated with water.
To avoid compacting the soil in the raised garden bed, water only when the top few inches of soil are dry. The easiest way to check soil moisture is to stick your fingers into the ground.
- Put your finger 1 to 2 inches (2.5 cm to 5.1 cm) into the soil.
- If the soil feels dry or easy to fall off from the fingers, it needs watering. If the soil feels damp or clings to your fingers, no additional moisture is needed.
- You can also identify dry soil by looking at its color. Dry soil is usually lighter than wet soil. However, it is important to note that although some soils are moist, they look light, so it is important to be familiar with your soil type before making any decisions.
- Cover weight
Adding a layer of mulch to the raised garden bed also helps prevent soil compaction. Cover is a layer of material (usually organic) distributed on the soil surface. It helps control weeds, maintain moisture and protect plants from extreme temperatures.
The mulch can also act as a barrier between the soil and any weight with which it may come in contact. This may include electrical equipment, heavy rain, and even people walking on the soil. By preventing these objects from coming into direct contact with the soil, you can help prevent compaction.
Organic mulch such as sawdust, bark, straw and leaves will decompose over time and add valuable nutrients to the soil. This is undoubtedly beneficial to plants because it helps to improve the overall quality of the soil. Laying a fresh layer of mulch every year is a great way to keep the raised garden bed in the best condition.
Inorganic barriers such as landscape fabrics or black plastic have a longer service life, but do not provide the same benefits to the soil. These types of barriers may help if you try to control weeds or maintain moisture, but they will not improve soil quality over time.
When choosing the right type of covering for your raised garden bed garden, please choose the material that is suitable for your climate and plant type. Some mulches may be too acidic or alkaline for some plants. Others may not be able to provide adequate insulation in cold temperatures.
In addition, avoid using herbicide treated mulches as they can penetrate the soil and harm your plants.
- Plant covered crops
The use of mulch crops is an excellent way to improve soil quality and prevent compaction. As bare soil is more vulnerable to water and wind erosion, planting mulch crops can also help reduce the amount of topsoil lost each year.
Cover crops are usually planted in the autumn after the main crops are harvested. They grow throughout the winter and plough into the spring soil. This enriches the organic matter in the soil, helps to control weeds and prevent erosion.
When the mulch crop decomposes, it also adds important nutrients to the ground, which helps to improve plant growth and soil structure.
Common cover crops include annual ryegrass, dark red clover, oats and winter wheat. The covered crops grow relatively fast and can reach 3 to 6 feet (0.9 m to 1.8 m) in just a few months. This quality is very beneficial because higher plants have deeper roots, which help break the compacted soil and improve drainage.
When selecting a mulch crop, consider its growth cycle, height, and root system. You also need to ensure that the mulch crop is compatible with your climate and does not damage your plants.
- Use raised garden bedspread
If you live in an area with heavy rainfall or snowfall, you may want to consider using a raised garden bedspread.
As the name implies, the raised garden bedspread is a material placed on the top of the bed. It helps to protect plants from extreme weather conditions, maintain moisture and control weed growth.
The raised garden bed cover also allows excess water to drain from the side of the raised garden bed, thus preventing waterlogging. This is beneficial because it helps prevent the soil from becoming too wet and compacted.
There are different kinds of raised garden bedspreads on the market. Some are made of plastic or other synthetic materials, while others are made of natural fibers such as cotton.
When using a raised garden bedspread, make sure it is made of breathable material, such as canvas or mesh. This will allow air and water to pass through while still providing protection for the elements.
You also need to ensure that the cover is securely fastened to prevent it from blowing away in strong winds. The type of material you choose will depend on your climate, budget, and planting plants.
For example, taller plants may require higher mulch, while plants that require a lot of sunlight may require transparent or mesh mulch. This allows sunlight to pass through and replenish the plants while still protecting them from the elements.
Soil compaction is a common problem in raised garden beds. It may be caused by various factors, such as rainfall, heavy equipment and excessive human flow. The compacted soil is dense, making it difficult for the root to penetrate, resulting in poor plant growth, soil soaking and drainage problems.
Avoid walking or kneeling on a raised garden bed, but place paths around it. Use raised garden covers or coverings to protect the soil from extreme weather conditions and avoid over watering plants.
Finally, consider planting mulch crops to improve soil quality and prevent compaction.