We have taken a look at diagnosing soil compaction and now we'll consider some principles to determine what to do if you did diagnose a problem.

(See Tips offered for diagnosing soil compaction).

The first thing that comes to mind is to loosen the soil with tillage. We have to question ourselves, though, if that addresses the basic problem.

So we need to go back to the diagnosis. If your soil structure is massive near the surface, and no evidence of soil life or abundant organic matter can be seen, you first have to think about how to rebuild soil structure by stimulating soil life.

Tillage is mostly detrimental to soil organisms, especially if it buries surface crop residue.

Deep-tunneling earthworms such as nightcrawlers are very sensitive to absence of crop residue so you want to maintain residue cover to favor them.

Also, soil fungi that help improve soil structure are negatively affected by tillage.

 However, the tillage may open up the soil to allow water and air movement and improve root growth. So in certain extreme cases, tillage may be warranted.

It is important, then, to plant a (cover) crop with vigorous roots to immediately occupy the voids you created with tillage. Organic matter additions such as manure or compost also help improve surface soil structure. 

If there is a highly compacted layer at a certain depth, on the other hand, but surface soil structure is in good condition, it may be worthwhile breaking that up with a subsoiler or heavy chisel plow.