How to Test for Compacted Soil


Your type of soil is based upon the types of particles that make it up. For example, sandy soil is made up of mostly large particles that don't pack tightly together. This allows moisture and air to move through easily. Clay soil is made up of tiny particles that easily pack together. When soil is packed together to the point that moisture and air cannot move through the soil easily, you have compacted soil. Compacted soil provides a very poor medium for plant growth. Testing for it is really easy and can be completed in a few minutes.

Step 1

Rent a soil compaction tester. These have a metal post that is 36 to 48 inches in length that you push into the soil, and they are available at your local rental center.

Step 2

Push the compaction tester into the soil. Apply steady and even pressure. If you hit any areas of resistance, make a note on how deep this layer is. Resistance usually means the soil is compacted at that level.

Step 3

Look for areas of standing water on your property. The best time to do this is after a rainfall. Areas that are compacted will retain pooled water at the surface for a longer period of time than non-compacted areas.

Step 4

Dig down around trees and shrubs. Look for roots that are stunted or deformed. Roots will not grow into compacted soil easily. You may notice that the roots suddenly stop all at the same location. This is typically seen in compacted soils in which the root ball suddenly meets the compacted soil and the roots cannot grow down any farther.

Tips and Warnings

  • A few reasons for compacted soil include driving machinery over the ground and tilling wet soil. Always work soil when it is dry to incorporate air into it and refrain from driving any machinery across the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil compaction tester


  • Gemplers: Testing Soil Compaction
  • Ben Meadows: How To Test for Soil Compaction

Who Can Help

  • USA Gypsum: Agricultural Gypsum Uses
Keywords: compacted soil test, soil compaction tester, standing water, stunted roots

About this Author

Robin Gonyo has been writing for several years now. She has a deep love for gardening and has spent a vast amount of time researching that subject. Previously she has written for private clients before joining Demand Studios. She hopes to share her knowledge with others through her writing.