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While digging in the wet is often extremely muddy and heavy work, does it harm the soil at all?

Is there any sound reason, besides the difficulty, not to do it?

Gary Hobson

Stepping on the soil, even in dry weather, tends to compact the soil, and force air out of the gaps between the soil particles.

This is one of the main benefits of raised beds - they define a boundary to the growing area, and deter people from walking on the soil.

If you step on the soil when the soil is wet, this compacts the soil even more than it does in dry weather.

Some people use to plank to stand on when doing any cultivation, as this spreads the weight of the gardener over the entire area of the plank, and so reduces the pressure, and the compaction.

Yes, digging wet soil is not good.  Your energy would be much better spent doing other garden maintenance like fixing fences, washing pots, clearing rubbish or sitting in the dry poring over seed catalogues..........

Gary Hobson wrote (see)

Stepping on the soil, even in dry weather, tends to compact the soil, and force air out of the gaps between the soil particles.

This is one of the main benefits of raised beds - they define a boundary to the growing area, and deter people from walking on the soil.

If you step on the soil when the soil is wet, this compacts the soil even more than it does in dry weather.

Some people use to plank to stand on when doing any cultivation, as this spreads the weight of the gardener over the entire area of the plank, and so reduces the pressure, and the compaction.

If you dig methodically though, will one not dig the area one has just been standing on?

Would that not immediately undo any compaction caused?

kate1123

Are you digging it to plant in it? If it is so wet that you are asking the question then it would probably not be ideal to plant either. But if you are digging in preparation for next year that would not be such a big issue and obviously it will depend on the type of soil.

I was always told that you damaged the structure of the soil by walking on it when it was sodden, which does make sense with my clay soil turning solid in the rain.

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Gary Hobson
Phytographer wrote (see)
If you dig methodically though, will one not dig the area one has just been standing on? Would that not immediately undo any compaction caused?

No it won't! Because when you 'dig' the soil you've been standing on, you'll just be turning over large clods of compacted earth. By tramping on the soil and compressing it with your feet, you will have destroyed the fine structure of the soil.

Gary Hobson wrote (see)
Phytographer wrote (see)
If you dig methodically though, will one not dig the area one has just been standing on? Would that not immediately undo any compaction caused?

No it won't! Because when you 'dig' the soil you've been standing on, you'll just be turning over large clods of compacted earth. By tramping on the soil and compressing it with your feet, you will have destroyed the fine structure of the soil.

Ah, thanks for making that clear. Excellent point.

flowering rose

I have very heavy clay soil and one thing you don't do is dig when its wet besides the damage and compacting of the soil it sticks to your boots,spade and anything else.wait until its drier otherwise your soil will be giant clogs of earth .

Gary Hobson

Something else that we haven't mentioned are the soil organisms. These are vital for maintaining the health of the soil. I don't know what damage soil compaction does to their ability to work effectively.

Gary Hobson wrote (see)

Something else that we haven't mentioned are the soil organisms. These are vital for maintaining the health of the soil. I don't know what damage soil compaction does to their ability to work effectively.

The only effect I could suggest is the following:

  • Compaction reduces soil aeration (i.e. less oxygen in the soil)
  • Some micro-organisms (i.e. aerobic microorganisms) rely on oxygen to survive.
  • Thus, compaction is likely to adversely affect soil micro-organisms.

However, I am unaware of any more specific info about the relationship between the amount of compaction and the extent of the damage caused to the MOs.

A very interesting topic of research for any budding soil scientists...

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