Do you guys do this?

christinmk z5b eastern WAMarch 5, 2010

A few years ago I saw something interesting on a garden show. The host was explaining that when you walked around the garden when the soil was wet it compacted the soil. He said that you could avoid this by putting a board down to disperse your weight across a larger area to lessen the compaction.

I was wondering how many use this method? Do you even bother? How in the world do you do this if you have plants planted close together? As it is I have to tip-toe across the garden to avoid stepping on anything! The host on the show demonstrated in this bed with coneflowers and spirea spaced about five feet apart (lol!) so it was very easy for him to get around.

Any other ways you like to either lessen compaction of the soil or loosen up hard packed soil without disturbing the plants?


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What? You mean you don't carry a couple of 2Ã8's around with you whenever you want to go out in your garden after it rains? For shame!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 12:50PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Lol! Too funny tlacuache ;-) I have been known to carry half a cinder block around with to sit on while getting rid of a particularly nasty patch o' weeds. You think I would learn to carry something a bit lighter...

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 1:13PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I have lots of paths in the garden so they're perfect for walking around when conditions would tend to compact the soil. I actually want the paths to compact. I have seen boards used between rows of a linear vegetable garden in spring but I can't imagine dragging a board around with you to be able to walk in the ornamental garden! I think someone who has never gardened before could get awfully intimidated by some of the 'expert advice' on garden show and in magazines etc.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 1:53PM
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I lay boards down on the lawn when I'm using the wheelbarrow to move heavy material. But in my beds I have some strategically placed flat rocks that I use to step on. Not real close so I have to stretch my legs abit but it works. When spring comes and the plants fill out most of them are somewhat hidden and when everything is dormant they are usually partially covered by mulch.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 6:26PM
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The only time I'veused boards was installing a birdbath where there would be water and mud. I removed plants before the work, and I didn't want crappy soil to replant them in. Over time, I too have placed rocks here and there. Sometimes they just suggest a path to follow. Because I am increasingly limited by really arthritic knees, I do more gardening lying down...flat on my stomach. The rocks are uncomfortable, so I am thoughtful about placing them.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:27PM
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I use my son's old boogie board when I want to put my weight somewhere but not compact the soil. Works great as a kneeling board on concrete and pathways too.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 10:03PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

I use something like that only on newly prepared beds.
Other than that, no.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 10:25PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I use a big piece of board in a very large new garden I'm working in. It could be called a bog garden, I guess. I lost a shoe once and had to balance on one foot while trying to retrieve the shoe from the mud. Since then, I use the board to walk on, both to keep from getting stuck (though not much of an issue since I bought a pair of muck boots) and to keep from compacting the heavy soil.

I do plan on placing stepping stones this season, so I won't be needing the board as the garden fills in.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Propaganda Garden Design

I don't walk on or dig in the soil when it is water logged. My old boss almost murdered a group of interns who stepped into a vegetable bed after it rained so it is ingrained now.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 1:30AM
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Weeding is easier after a rain. Weeding is hard enough that I don't carry a board around and my plants are too close together anyway because I sow annual seeds between the perennials.

I haven't suffered any plant loss from stepping in my garden unless the plant was under my boot. I have well-drained soil, not clay, so maybe that's the difference.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 8:00AM
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I wear cleats--any shoe that has sharp pointy things sticking out of the bottom. They redistribute your weight. Mine are for walking on ice or packed snow but I think they sell them for golf or hockey.

And I try to vary my path as much as possible so I'm not always stepping in the same exact spot.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 9:37AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

nope, don't do it. I would only consider it if I had fluffy double-dug veggie beds that I needed to get into but were too wide for my reach.... some day, right?

but like others have mentioned, if I'm working in a confined area I'll lay something down, more to protect the grass or keep the mess down than to protect the soil.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 9:50AM
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ginny12, what's the mechanism by which the cleats "redistribute your weight" when you wear them in the garden to minimize soil compaction? I wouldn't have thought that the spikes on the bottoms of shoes could really have any meaningful effect on the distribution of the downward force of gravity on one's body weight and the amount of resulting compaction that occurs, but I don't claim any expertise in physics or chemistry or soil science, so I don't really know. I'm not saying that your method doesn't workÂI'm just curious how it works.

I guess maybe rather than directly reducing compaction, one could argue the spikes on the bottoms of your cleats create little openings into the soil to offset the effects of the compaction caused by the flat surfaces of the rest of the sole of the shoe. Sort of along the lines of those "aerifying sandals" (I linked to a photo below) that they sell to be strapped to the bottoms of normal footwear to supposedly aerify the soil as you walk across it. I've always considered those things to be pretty bogus, but again, I'm not a scientist and I haven't studied it, so I don't really know.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:36AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Sure has been interesting hearing what you guys do. I agree, the board idea would be great if you have perfectly spaced rows, but otherwise it is a little tedious.

Lol, one could always go snowshoeing their way around the garden ;-] I think I will stick to giving the soil a quick churning when it gets compacted.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:49AM
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Because I am walking, not standing stock-still, it is the points that briefly enter the soil and my feet are lifted faster than my full weight has time to rest on the soil. My weight is distributed among the points, not on one flat surface like the bottom of an ordinary shoe.

I suppose if you stand in one spot for a long time and slowly sink into the soil to where the full bottom of the shoe meets the soil, the effect would be negated. But that's not what I do. Works for me.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 4:31PM
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The easiest solution to this problem is to grow very long legs. . .since I resemble a spider at 5'16", only the occasional flat rock in the bedz (anti-link device) is needed when I'm "tiptoeing through the tulips". . . :o)


    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 5:08PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Those spikes simply compact the soil all around the spikes. Many high quality golf courses have banned them in favor of spikeless golf shoes. Stabbing holes holes in the ground does not aerate. That can only be accomplished by removing soil (in the form of plugs).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 5:28PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I use the "strategically placed flat rocks" system too. Blocks, to be more accurate. I set these in place in my raised beds when I was constructing them. So the blocks go all the way down to the original ground level. I consider it a form of yoga stretch when I step from one to the other. DoesnÂt exactly look graceful, though, when I teeter and almost fall off.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 8:59PM
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I wish I had the forsight to put blocks into the one deep bed I have. This year I will look for empty spaces after everything comes up. If there aren't any, I will move things around a little. New garden, smaller plants.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 6:13PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hmmm.. reminds of some other post.. lol ...

i have designated paths .... kinda planned ahead ...

strategically placed stepping stones ...

though i am too lazy to drag around lumber .... any project that requires such.. can wait until later ... lol.. which means it cuts its odds of actually getting done this year ...

i have way to many such things.. that are now going on 3 years ... lol


    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:17AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I tend to be very careful about newly prepared gar*den beds. I hate to step in and compact it. After awhile I'm not always so careful. I have been working steadily toward stepping stones in all my beds. So far I have them in the beds I work in the most frequently and part of the rest. I really like having them there, not just for avoiding compacting the soil. They keep an open space to walk so that you're not losing your balance or stepping on plants and I find I am more comfortable working with space set aside to do that.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 11:38AM
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