Imagine being told to plant or work on muddy soil; imagine the stickiness, the soil that litters everywhere. It feels like you’re being punished for what you know nothing about – a real pain. Muddy grounds are annoying to work on, and depending on what you want to do, you may need to harden the soil before getting anything done on that soil.
When the ground is muddy, it becomes difficult to grow your favorite plants or establish a new lawn. Even walking across muddy soil is challenging. Typically, the soil should contain 50% water, 25% air, and 25% water, but sometimes, when it rains heavily, there’s a build-up of water in the soil. When you walk on the ground or when there is pressure from a vehicle or tractor, the air spaces are eliminated, thus leaving something that resembles 50% solid particles and 40% water. This proportion is not sustainable with little or no air space. It doesn’t have to be garden soil, sometimes you overwater potting soil and make it muddy and ultimately unfit for planting. In cases like these, drying out or hardening the soil is the best thing to do.
Muddy soil may also form in high-traffic areas like walkways and playgrounds. These areas usually see a lot of foot traffic that compacts the soil over time, removing air spaces. With time, it will no longer allow water to pass through but hold the water causing mud.
Planting and even building become challenging in this environment except you harden the soil. So how do you harden muddy ground before use?
Test to Determine Soil Type
Run a soil test to know the type of soil you’re dealing with and its properties. This will help you know the minerals in the ground and, in turn, the kind of soil and how to make amendments to harden the soil.
There are soil test kits you can buy, or you can employ the services of professionals to run extensive soil testing on the ground. Getting the type of soil is the first step to solving your mud issues.
How to Harden Muddy Soil?
If your soil contains too much moisture and tiny air spaces, it would be not only unpleasant and uncomfortable to walk on but also unfit to be used for planting. You have to harden the soil to dry out the water. Many people with the problem of muddy soil know they have to harden the ground; the problem is they may not know how to do this. This guide takes you through the entire process of hardening muddy soil. Whether clay soil, loamy soil, or sandy, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that you get to dry out some of the water content from the ground and harden it.
#1. By Aeration
Muddy soil has had its solid particles compacted so close to each other that there is barely any room for nutrients, air, or water to pass through, and that is why water stays in the upper layer and makes it muddy. One of the ways to improve muddy soil is by enhancing the pore spaces lacking in the ground.
These spaces have been removed or reduced by walking over the land when wet, the pressure from heavy rain, and even the activities of fertilizers. Aerating the soil will remove pockets of soil around, thus increasing the spaces between the particles for air, water, and nutrients to pass through easily.
Before working on your land, remove debris and things that inhibit moisture and block the sun’s path. You may even consider cutting down overreaching tree branches so the sun can reach a wider surface.
After aeration, the water will filter towards the bed and dry out on the surface. Hardening muddy soil by Aeration is a slow process but solves more than one muddy soil problem, making it an excellent option for people looking to plant after hardening the wet ground.
#3. Add Compost
Muddy soil is made up of closely packed soil particles with too much water in them. The water content in them makes them unsuitable for a lot of things, even making walkways. Adding another compost will improve the soil and dry out the water.
Now you may be wondering if you can also add coarse sand to the muddy ground to harden it. That combination will harden the ground, but it will be more like concrete ground than garden soil. Except you do not want to plant in the area; if not, avoid coarse sand and stick to compost as it works effectively.
Till in about 4 inches of decomposed compost into the muddy soil and allow it for some days. It will dry out some of the water content in the upper layer of the soil and improve the soil condition for planting. Doing this once or twice yearly will eventually eradicate muddiness from the area and replace it with rich garden soil.
#3. Add Gypsum Salt
Gypsum salt is a naturally occurring mineral, also known as calcium sulphate, that dries out the water content in the muddy ground when added. Before adding gypsum salt, make sure you have first checked the soil pH and ensured the soil is not acidic as you run the risk of creating magnesium deficiency in plants if you add calcium sulphate to acidic soil.
Gypsum salt will harden the ground and improve soil conditions, and its effect will last for months. You can add another batch of gypsum salt after this period but not after checking the pH of the soil.
When quicklime (CaO), which is the strongest lime, reacts with water, it forms a heat of hydration that dries out the moisture. Adding quicklime to the soil is a fast way to harden the soil and remove some of the water content, so the ground is dry enough to be walked over comfortably without having sticky particles follow you around.
Remember that quicklime works better as a drying agent when used in lands with high clay content, and the higher the clay content, the more quicklime is needed to dry up the water. The reaction of quicklime with water will release a binding agent to the up the soil particles together, making this method unsuitable if you want to plant. Also, lime increases the soil pH, which may affect the type of plants you can grow, if any.
To use this method, spread about 2 inches of lime over the surface of the land you want to harden. Allow to sit for about 2 hours, and the water at the top-most layer will start to evaporate. You can then mix in this lime with the soil. The deeper, the better, as the lime will dry where it can reach.
This is a faster method of drying the soil compared to most of the methods listed above.
#5. Sodium Silicate
Sodium silicate is an organic stabilizing agent you can add to your soil to harden it up and remove some moisture from the ground making it more suitable for planting or construction.
The mixture ratio of the compound to the soil is 1:20 by weight. Sodium silicate is best suited to sandy soil and will produce the best results when in this condition.
Muddy soil is a pain to work with as it sucks to your shoe, hands, and shovels as you work the ground. Planting in this soil condition is also annoying. Not only is the planting process a mess, but the plants will receive minimal nutrients, air and get waterlogged daily since the soil is cloggy.
Improving the soil by hardening it and reducing the water content becomes the next best thing to continue using the land. There are so many methods to use. These methods have different effectiveness, price, soil types and pH they work best in, and more. This guide helps you understand the methods and how you can use them to improve your soil.