What is Core Aeration?
Aeration involves perforating and pulling plugs of the soil that makes small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. This helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn. The main reason for aeration is to relieve soil compaction. Compacted soil prevents proper circulation of air, water and nutrients within the soil. Excess lawn thatch or heavy organic debris buried under the grass surface can also starve the roots from these key elements.
Should You Be Aerating Your Lawn?
Yes, all lawns will benefit from core aeration done at the proper time of year for your type of turf. Know your turf, lawn grasses fall into two different categories warm season and cool season grasses.
Warm season grasses begin their period of active growth in summer. If you aerate a warm-season lawn in late spring to early summer, the ensuing period of rapid growth will quickly fill in the holes you create.
Cool season turf emerges from summer dormancy in early fall and grows vigorously during the lower temperatures and reduced weed competition typical of fall. Strong growth helps the lawn quickly recover from the stress of aeration. The window of opportunity on fall aeration starts at the end of August and ends two or three weeks prior to first frost.
Why Does My Lawn Need Aeration
If your lawn gets heavy use, such as serving as the neighborhood playground, children and pets running around the yard contribute to soil compaction. Often the topsoil of newly constructed lawns is stripped or buried, and the grass established on subsoil has been compacted by construction traffic. If dries out easily and has a spongy feel, this might mean your lawn has an excessive thatch problem. Aerating breaks up the layering, allowing water, air and nutrients to flow through the soil easily and reach the roots system.
Core Aerator vs Spike Aerator
There are two types of aerating tools that exist: a spike aerator and a core aerator that pulls a plug. With a spike aerator, you simply use the tool to poke holes into the ground with a solid tine. This type of aerator may actually cause additional compaction. Core aerators remove a core or plug of grass and soil from the lawn. For the best results, we use a core aerator that actually removes plugs of soil.
How Often Should I Aerate?
Most lawns benefit from annual aeration. Heavily used lawns, or those growing on heavy clay or subsoil's may need more than one aeration each year. Again, turf responds best when tine spacing is closer and penetration is deeper. Here in Georgia, clay soil is about all we have, so we would recommend on most lawns aeration twice a year.
What Should You Expect
After aeration, your lawn will be sprinkled with small plugs pulled from the soil. Within a week or two, they break apart and disappear into the lawn. About a week after you should see the holes filled with white, actively growing roots, a sign that the turf grass is receiving additional oxygen, moisture and nutrients from the soil. On compacted soils and on lawns with hills, you should see a big difference immediately in water puddling and runoff after irrigation or rainfall. After aeration, your lawn should be able to go longer between watering, without showing signs of wilt. With repeat aeration over time, your lawn will show enhanced heat and drought stress tolerance. Remember, most lawns benefit from aeration. And while you shouldn’t expect miracles, especially with poor soil, lawns that receive this care will be healthier, more vigorous, and have fewer pest problems.
By Gary Duncan