Protect the soil from compaction

When you dig to plant a deep pot or to do a drainage test, look at what the soil tells you. Is there a densely packed layer on top of looser stuff? All the roots will be trapped above that, and water will pool at the meeting of the two layers, drowning roots. Dig or drill to loosen or punch through that layer. Cushion the soil surface with mulch during the growing season and spread out your weight when you work in early spring on wet soil so you don't create new "hard pan."

Below, left: Loose soil was added (A) but nothing was done to break up B, the densely packed "hard pan" created when the property was developed for building. C, the soil beneath the hard pan, is dark and fertile but roots don't reach it because there is no air in layer B -- roots need air! -- and a root-rotting perched water table often sits at the meeting of A & B..

Below, right: If the subsoil (black arrow) is a much different color than the top, be careful with fertilizer!

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Our feet put as much pressure on soil per square inch as a bulldozer, and cold wet soil can pack down. Note the board Janet's using to spread her weight where the soil is not yet warmed.