Aeration 101: "What Is Lawn Aeration And Why Should I Have It Done?"
In most home lawns, the natural soil has been seriously disturbed by the building process. Fertile topsoil may have been removed or buried during excavation of the basement or footings, leaving subsoil that is more compact, higher in clay content and less desirable for healthy lawn growth.
The Lawn Institute estimates that over two-thirds of American lawns are growing on compacted soils. Compaction can cause the grass to appear off-color, thinning, and showing signs of stress in high temperatures. Because the grass is stressed, it may be susceptible to disease and insect damage. Compaction occurs primarily in the upper 1 to 1 1/2 inches of soil. Compacted soils have reduced air spaces and more resistance to root growth than non-compacted soils. Compacted soils cause water to puddle and run off. Walking, playing and mowing are forms of traffic that compacts soil and stresses lawns. Rain and irrigation also further compact the soil.
The solution is core lawn aeration.
Lawn aeration is the process of removing small plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn to reduce compaction and allow aeration of the soil. In essence, you're allowing your lawn to breathe. Without these air pockets, hard-compacted soil suffocates the turf grasses and deprive them of vital water, air, and nutrients.
Our aeration equipment consists of a series of cam driven hollow coring tines mounted on wheels. When these hollow tines are rolled over your lawn, they puncture the soil and remove small soil plugs.
The benefits of aeration include :
- Improved fertilizer and nutrient intake
- Reduced watering costs- Save up to 25% on your watering bill!
- Deep root development
- Improved Soil Structure
- Increased air exchange between soil and atmosphere
- Reduced thatch
- Reduced soil compaction
- Reduced water runoff
- Increased protection against drought, insects, disease, and weeds
- A thicker, healthier, & greener lawn
Immediately following aeration, your lawn will be dotted with small plugs pulled from the soil. Within a week or two, these plugs of thatch and soil break apart and disappear into the lawn. As they dissolve back into the soil, the microbes in the plugs will begin to break down the thatch layer. If thatch is left unmanaged, it can lead to serious maintenance and pest problems.
Soon after aeration, the aeration holes will begin to fill with white, actively growing roots. This is a sign that the turf grass is responding to additional oxygen, moisture, and nutrients in the soil.
There is no question that aeration is the most beneficial thing you can do for your lawn. Don't expect miracles from a single aeration though, particularly from lawns growing on extremely poor soils. Lawn experts agree that most lawns benefit from twice annual aeration. Think of regular lawn aeration like a routine checkup with your doctor. Regular maintenance now is preferred over major problems tomorrow!
Still have more questions about the aeration process? We've answered nearly 20 questions related to aeration below.
Q: What is core aeration?
A: In simplest terms, It is the process of making finger sized holes in your lawn and depositing the removed material on the surface to break down. This allows fertilizer, water, and oxygen to get to the roots where healthy grass originates.
Q: Is core aeration effective in improving all species of turf grass?
A: Yes, both cool season (i.e. Fescue, Kentucky 31, Bluegrass) and warm season grass (i.e. Bermuda Grass) can be greatly improved.
Q: How do I know if my lawn needs aeration?
A: Known clay soils (Missouri is WELL known for), heavy traffic, more than 1/2" of thatch, standing water after irrigation or rain, or lawns that brown easily in heat are all excellent candidates. In reality, any yard, healthy or not, will benefit from annual aeration.
Q: My neighbor has a spike aerator that he pulls behind his yard tractor. Will this aerate as well as a core aerator?
A: No. In fact, the spike aerator may do more harm than good. While spiking will put holes in the turf, it actually compacts the soil rather than removing the core. It will also glaze the side of the hole which makes penetration of air and nutrients more difficult.
Dr. Robert Carrow, University of Georgia turf expert, compared the effect of aerating with a "core" aerator versus a "spike" aerator. The hollow tines (sometimes called "spoons") of a core aerator plunge into the ground and pull up a large plug of earth. Spike aerators insert narrow, solid rods into the earth. He found that the core aerator increased deep rooting and water extraction by 25 percent. The spike aerator showed no effects on grass health.
Q: When should I aerate?
A: For cool season grasses (most grasses in Missouri are cool season grasses...Tall Fescue, Kentucky 31, Rye Grass, etc.) spring (March-May) and fall (August-November) are best. For warm season grasses such as Bermuda, Buffalo, St. Augustine, etc., late spring and summer (May-July) is preferred.
Q: When will I see positive results in my lawn?
A: Depending on the turf conditions, your visual results may or may not be immediate from a single aeration. Subterranean root growth and overall health and stress tolerance will however begin to improve immediately. Even in the toughest conditions, aeration in combination with an appropriate fertilizing, irrigation ,and weed control program will show dramatic visual results in the second year after a second or third aeration.
Q: Will aeration make my grass grow faster?
A: Yes. Healthy grass will grow faster and thicker. If you hate to mow lush, green grass...aeration, fertilizing, and watering are counterproductive.
Q: Is aeration a one time fix that can be discontinued when my lawn has improved?
A: No. Aeration needs to be a continual part of your lawn care plan just like fertilizing, weed and pest control, irrigation, and mowing.
Q: How deep and how many cores are required for effective aeration?
A: Generally, cores every 4"-6" and from 2"-3" deep will give best results. It is commonly accepted that the deeper and closer together, the better.
Q: How long will it take for the cores in my yard to disappear?
A: Depending on weather, soil conditions, watering and mowing frequency...the cores will break down and disappear in about 2 weeks. This process will add nutrients to your lawn. The microbes in the cores are what helps to break down thatch. Raking up cores will reduce the effectiveness of aeration.
Q: What is thatch?
A: Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green turfgrass and the soil surface. Excessive thatch (over 1/2 inch thick) creates a favorable environment for pests and disease and an unfavorable growing environment for grass roots. Regular aeration is considered one of the best ways to control thatch.
Despite popular belief, short clippings deposited on the lawn after mowing are NOT the cause of thatch buildup. These clippings are very high in water content and breakdown rapidly. This, of course, is assuming lawns are mowed on a regular basis (not removing more than one-third of the leaf blade at a time).
Q: Can I aerate myself?
A: Aeration can be done by any homeowner with a "Do-It-Yourself" attitude. Keep this in mind though...by the time you have spent your gas driving to the rental store, picked up a 300+ lb. piece of equipment on your trailer (Heaven help you if you're trying to get this machine into the back of a pickup), lugged the same 300+ lb. piece of equipment around your lawn for an hour or so, replaced the gas in the aerator, and returned it to the rental center...You may be very well asking yourself why you didn't have us do it for you. Expect to rent these machines for around $45+ for a 2 hour minimum charge. Since our average lawn is $75-$90, this really is a "no-brainer".
Q: How wet should my yard be for best aeration results?
A: Dry ground reduces the depth of cores and aeration effectiveness. Wet, muddy soil allow deep aeration but at the expense of crusting the soil in the hole, reducing access to the roots and making cores left in the yard a muddy mess that does not break down as fast. Normally, aerating 24 hours after a 1/2"rain or normal watering is best.
Q: Can aerator tines damage sprinkler heads or other items in the lawn?
A: Yes. You must flag all items in the yard to avoid damage caused by the tines.
Q: When should I fertilize?
A: Fertilizing immediately after aeration will achieve the best return on your fertilizer investment, as it will more easily get to the root structure at this time.
Q: When should I apply pre-emergent for weeds?
A: Pre-emergent is best applied after aeration to reduce the chance of weed invasion in the yard while grass is spreading to the cored holes. Do not apply pre-emergent if you intend to over-seed.
Q: Is reseeding after aeration a good practice?
A: Yes. If your lawn has areas where the grass is thin, broadcast seeding after aeration will improve germination. The seeds will intermix with the deterioration of plugs and have direct access to non-compacted soil in the holes. In this area, multiple passes with the aeration equipment will dramatically improve soil conditions leading to better over-seeding results
Q: Do I need to de-thatch (power rake) in addition to aeration?
A: Only in cases of extreme thatch is this necessary. Power raking only removes thatch, but does not relieve compaction. Aeration does both in one operation.
Q: Do you offer additional services such as fertilization and seeding when you aerate?
A: Yes. These "add on" services are offered at the time aeration is performed. We start with the basic aeration and then offer the customer high quality grass seed, fertilizer, and lime (a soil conditioner). Some people want just fertilizer while others choose the entire package.
Q: How soon can you perform the aeration?
A: Fill out our free estimate form here, or call us at 636-795-0521. There's a good chance we'll even be able to schedule your aeration the next day. Don't delay though. Aeration is a high demand service and we only have a small seasonal window period to work with. Call or submit your information today!
Have any more questions? Email us at info@TomasisCuttingEdge.com