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April 7, 2014

Take steps to protect your soil

Have you seen anything green yet? Grass, trees leafing out or crocuses putting in an appearance?

As I write this I am hard pressed to find something green that isn’t leftover St. Patrick’s Day décor or something in the far reaches of my fridge. 

I have, however, noticed that when I walk on the brown stuff that may be lawn again one day soon, there is a give to the soil beneath my feet. This is a good sign that the ground is thawing and also a sign that I shouldn’t be walking there.

We are all eager to get outside and enjoy some moderate temperatures and the warmth of the sun on our faces. In our enthusiasm to rake debris and cut back perennials in preparation for their spring growth, we need to be mindful of the soil. That give beneath our feet is the soil compacting. 

Think of walking on fluffy snow. The snow is fluffy because of the shape of the individual crystals and the air between them. I’m sure you still remember what happens when you step on snow, since your last experience may have been just this morning. When you step on the snow, it compacts. The crystals are broken down and the air is pushed out. The same happens when you walk on soil that is too wet.

Soil is made up of aggregates of clay, sand and silt. These aggregates have pockets between them where air and water collect. The roots of plants count on this air and water to sustain them. When we walk on soil that is too wet, we push the aggregates together, eliminating these pockets that are vital for the roots of plants. Just as snow doesn’t “bounce back” once we compact it, neither can our soil.

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