Reducing Soil Compaction to Improve Drainage

Soil compaction is any process that compresses soil particles and reduces pore or air space between them. This process reduces or eliminates water infiltration and can cause runoff and erosion.

Diagram of healthy and unhealthy soil
Comparison of healthy and unhealthy soil pore space. Photo Credit: University of Delaware

Plant roots may have a harder time penetrating the soil and may not get enough oxygen and nutrients. Soil compaction occurs in agricultural as well as urban landscapes.

Small plants in test tubes for an experiment
Soil compaction hinders plant growth. The plants are lined up left to right from least to most compacted soil. Photo Credit: Iowa State University

Ways to Reduce Compaction

  • Avoid tilling wet soil
  • Keep construction equipment off of soils around tree roots
  • Avoid overworking the soil

Ways to Improve Compacted Soils

  • Add organic matter
  • Use mulches
  • Deep cultivation

Additional Resources:


Florida – Soil Compaction


Michigan – What to do About Compacted Soil