Earth Gauge Tip of the Week — Trampled Soils Lead to Nutrient Pollution

Reader Contribution by Earth Gauge
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Everyone loves to play in the yard, but over time your foot traffic actually crushes the soil beneath your feet.  This affects the health of your lawn more than you might realize.  For instance, just stepping onto wet ground even once can squash the dirt to within 75 percent of its potential “squish-ability,” if you will.  That’s a problem for your lawn because soil compaction leads to nearly 80 percent of all commonly found plant disorders and higher rates of stormwater runoff.  And when your lawn’s fertilizers, leaves and grass clippings are washed into storm drains, they become water pollutants that contribute to nutrient pollution, one of the leading causes of water degradation in the United States!

Viewer Tip:  Now, you don’t have to stay off the lawn just to avoid soil compaction, so here are two steps that you can take to prevent soil compaction and reverse it.  Mother Nature will thank you!

  • Prevention – Spread compost over your lawn and incorporate it into the first few inches of your topsoil once a year.  Lay mulch or wood chips over your garden paths to minimize your impact.
  • Mitigation – If you already have compacted soils, rent an aerator, a machine that punctures your lawn like Swiss cheese.  This process increases the overall surface area of your soil exposed to the air and it allows water to infiltrate more easily.

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(Source: Whiting, David et al. 2010, “CMG GardenNotes #215: Soil Compaction,” Colorado State University Extension Accessed Online, July 17, 2012.)