A healthy lawn cannot flourish in soil that is heavily compacted

In many parts of New Jersey, there has been a transition of the landscape from agricultural and undeveloped land to one that is dominated by residential development.  As watersheds become increasingly composed of residential development, a majority of soils in these newly developed areas can suffer from compaction or diminished quality.  During the preparation of land for building, compaction is required to create a stable foundation for structures, but the compaction often extends into areas ultimately intended for growing vegetation without regard for plants’ requirement of less dense soil.  Soil compaction can also occur by nature, as well as by human activities.  Compacted soils make a difficult environment for turfgrass and landscaping plants to grow since aeration is poor.  As a result, homeowners may be unaware that a lawn has a poor infiltration rate and may be contributing, unknowingly, to excess applications of water that never make it to the plant roots.   Poor plant growth and compaction of soils may result in a decrease in the infiltration of precipitation and an increase in soil erosion and stormwater runoff.  Such conditions could create or exacerbate stormwater management problems, stream erosion, and flooding (Mangiafico, 2011).

Soil compaction; www.greenpack.rec.org

One goal for all developed areas should be to maintain soils of "high quality."   High quality soils can (Mangiafico, 2011):

  • infiltrate water

  • store water for plant use

  • have a desirable amount of organic matter and air spaces

  • hold nutrients for plants

  • provide other ecosystem benefits such as filtering pollutants, limiting soil erosion, and limiting stormwater runoff

  • provide other horticultural benefits such as supporting growth of desirable plants over weeds

A high quality soil is required for establishing a healthy lawn.  Detailed information on soil quality and compaction can be found in the Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) Bulletin E338 entitled "Soil and Stormwater Management: Soil Quality, Compaction, and Residential Development." A scripted PowerPoint presentation accompanies this Bulletin, and short educational programs on the topic are offered by Rutgers Cooperative Extension.  

Here is what municipalities can do to help homeowners address soil compaction:

  • Provide information to homeowners on soil compaction and soil quality - flyers, web material, RCE Bulletin E338, etc.

  • Provide educational programming at the local garden centers or home supply stores.

  • Enforce state law that requires new developments to adhere to the soil erosion sediment control standard for soil restoration.

  • Invite a representative from the Soil Conservation district to provide constituents information on how the impacts of the fertilizer law.


Slide Sets

Fact Sheets


Special Topics


The Partners