Says it’s a good time to chan­nel your en­ergy.

To avoid the com­mon prob­lem of com­paction when sow­ing or plant­ing veg­eta­bles, gar­den­ing guru PETER CUN­DALL sug­gests work­ing off planks or wide boards to dis­trib­ute the weight

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - Peter Cun­dall:

One of the main rea­sons for re­duced fer­til­ity is heav­ily com­pacted soil. If the ground can­not breathe, mi­cro-or­gan­isms and worms can­not flour­ish, wa­ter is un­able to pen­e­trate and roots can­not take up nu­tri­ents.

Com­paction is a com­mon prob­lem. It’s the rea­son why we work off planks or wide boards to dis­trib­ute the weight when sow­ing or plant­ing in the veg­etable gar­den.

Wet com­pacted soil be­comes ex­ces­sively sour over time, usu­ally be­com­ing so toxic many plants are un­able to grow. We can tell, be­cause when the sur­face is cul­ti­vated, foul-smelling gases are re­leased. Plant­ing trees and shrubs im­me­di­ately af­ter build­ings have been con­structed or sim­i­lar work in­volv­ing heavy ma­chin­ery can be risky. Far bet­ter for wet com­pacted soil to be roughly cul­ti­vated so ex­posed clods are aer­ated, re­leas­ing trapped gases.

Where veg­etable gar­dens or peren­nial bor­ders are planned at new home sites, ap­ply­ing lime first usu­ally has­tens the sweet­en­ing process.

Veg­etable gar­den soils are dug and worked more than other parts of the gar­den. Seeds or seedlings need moist, cul­ti­vated soil to get a good start but over­wet soils are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to com­paction and are a com­mon cause of fail­ure.

Grassed ar­eas which have been sub­ject to heavy foot traf­fic dur­ing sum­mer, al­ways be­comes hard and wa­ter-re­pel­lent. If on slop­ing ground, rain­wa­ter fails to pen­e­trate and flows to waste.

I re­call see­ing a bank so badly com­pacted due to peo­ple tak­ing short cuts, that even large trees which had been grow­ing there for years were be­gin­ning to die. The lo­cal coun­cil solved the prob­lem by plant­ing a dense ground-cover of ku­rume aza­leas as a de­ter­rent. In the end, the en­tire bank be­came a tri­umph of out­stand­ing land­scap­ing as the trees re­cov­ered.

When ar­eas of lawn be­come badly

When ar­eas of lawn be­come badly com­pacted due to heavy foot traf­fic, grass stops grow­ing leav­ing un­sightly dead trails

com­pacted due to heavy foot traf­fic, grass stops grow­ing leav­ing un­sightly dead trails. If peo­ple per­sist on tak­ing short cuts across lawn ar­eas, it’s bet­ter to in­sert step­ping stone paths to ab­sorb the im­pact.

Where slop­ing lawns have be­come too dry – of­ten be­cause grass has been mown far too closely – use a strong gar­den fork to loosen the sur­face. Drive it deeply into the sub­soil, with­out pris­ing, ev­ery 25 cen­time­tres, leav­ing dozens of small holes.

Then pour wa­ter over the area so it can soak down to where it is needed around and be­neath the grass roots. As the sub­soil ab­sorbs the wa­ter is swells, clos­ing the holes.

Fresh grass will soon be­gin to grow at this time of the year, but mower blades should be lifted to en­cour­age deeper root pen­e­tra­tion.

Some of the most se­ri­ous prob­lems of soil com­paction oc­cur be­neath large trees where cars are reg­u­larly parked. The sur­face soil turns to dust and drifts away ex­pos­ing and badly scar­ring tree roots.

This is a com­mon rea­son why many old-es­tab­lished trees in heav­ily-fre­quented ar­eas lose vigour and be­gin dy­ing back. Cars should never be al­lowed to park be­neath trees un­less the sur­face over the roots has been pro­tected by paving or as­phalt.

Even where trees are sur­rounded by lawn ar­eas or bare ground, soil com­paction can oc­cur and the trees

suf­fer. Fork­ing is out of the ques­tion be­cause tree roots are too much of a bar­rier.

I use the pointed end of a pick-axe which can be driven hard into the soil with­out dam­ag­ing tree roots. It’s enough to cre­ate sev­eral ex­tra-deep, wedge­shaped holes, to each square me­tre, prefer­ably in a wide band be­neath driplines of suf­fer­ing trees. Large roots can be avoided.

A thick layer of coarse, dry river sand, mixed with blood and bone is then spread over the sur­face where it can be raked into the holes.

This method pro­vides nu­mer­ous en­riched ‘cores’ among the feed­ing roots and en­able wa­ter to flow down rather than run to waste. This is an­other sim­ple way to bring new life to trees which have been los­ing vigour be­cause of dry, com­pacted soil.

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