About half of a healthy soil is made up of mineral particles like sand, silt and clay plus organic matter. The remaining half is called pore space. That is the room for air and water movement around the mineral particles. Pore space is required in order to have a healthy environment for plant roots and beneficial microorganisms and earthworms to break down plant residue into organic matter.
Compacted soil can make growing plants in a vegetable or flower garden problematic.
Many gardeners are not aware that the difficulties with their vegetable garden or flower garden could be caused by compacted soils. Lawns can also be affected. You may find soil is difficult to dig in or till up and plants do not grow well. They do not develop as large of a root system as they should. Water may collect after a heavy rain and will remain rather than soak in.
But what is causing this?
Compaction is most likely to occur with heavier soils like clay but when heavy equipment is used even sandy soils can become compacted. These are soil particles that are packed closely together. The problem may be compounded by events that have happened to the soil over the course of years. The pore spaces are reduced to the point that air and water cannot move freely and plant roots cannot grow easily into the surrounding soil. The soil could remain overly wet longer than is healthy for the plants growing there.