Did you know that soil compaction is the number one killer of grass? A quality lawn begins in the soil. Lawn aeration keeps grass and trees beautiful by improving soil structure and combating soil compaction. Oxygen and vital nutrients must be accessible in the soil to develop a deeper, stronger root system in your turf. The nicest lawns are aerated regularly. Aeration schedules are/can be based on many factors. Let us help you combat soil compaction and develop a plan to keep the structure of your soil healthy.
Improving and Maintaining Soil Structure through Aerating
Did you ever wonder why grass has so much trouble growing in hard compact soil?
It all boils down to porous space. Healthy soil has both macropores and micropores. These spaces in the soil are what hold the water and nutrients important for a beautiful, healthy lawn. They also provide space for plants to absorb oxygen. When a soil is over-compacted, it no longer has the porous space necessary to grow a healthy stand of turf grass. Short of tilling up the area, lawn aerating is the best method to achieve healthy soil structure. If a lawn is aerated regularly, once or twice a year, combined with over-seeding in the Fall significant improvements are bound to follow.
In areas with high competition from either undesired grasses or possibly trees and shrubs, the porous soil space can be filled with roots from the competing plants. Larger plants and trees tend to have deep enough root systems that they can share the top 3 inches or so of the soil for a healthy lawn to grow. Repeated aerating services can provide the porous space necessary to grow grass in some of those harder to establish areas. In shady areas with mature trees, often aeration services need to be combined with fungicide preventative and basic lawn treatments to achieve a successful stand of grass.
To aerate your lawn is like plowing field. The best time to do it is right before you seed the lawn in the Fall. Without plowing the field before planting crops, farmers don’t usually have much success. Without aerating before over-seeding, landscapers tend to have the same unsuccessful fate. The only real difference is that fields are plowed in the Spring when the crop are planted. Aerating is typically done in the Fall when tall fescue has the highest establishment rates. Another key reason to save seeding the lawn until Fall is because lawn weed control programs use pre-emergence chemicals to keep weeds down. These chemicals work by creating a barrier on the soil that prevents seed germination. Typically these last about 6 months, so when applied in February or March, they are no longer effective during Fall seeding in late September/October.
What to do Before and After Aerating Your Yard
If it’s your first time aerating, chances are you have the same questions everyone else has: “Do I need to do anything before I aerate my yard?” and “I just had my yard aerated. Is there anything special I need to do now?”
Before aerating your lawn, our staff will contact the utility marking companies. While everything should be plenty deep for the 2-3″ plugs our aerators pull out of the ground, telecommunication lines are often just barely under the sod. We have yards marked to avoid damaging such lines. If you have an irrigation system, we recommend flagging or spraying turf marking paint on any head in the middle of the yard. Heads along curbs or edges of the yard should be safe from the aerator because it usually stays 4-6 inches away from the edge of the yard. Any damage to marked heads or heads along curbs will be repaired by our staff free of charge. Damage to any irrigation lines or other buried lines will be billed to the customer at normal irrigation service rates.
So if you know where a shallow line is, make sure to mark it clearly and communicate the meaning of your markings to our staff. While you are thinking about the irrigation, go ahead and make sure the ground is watered a little bit to soften things up and promote deeper plugs being pulled. Deeper plugs means more porous space and thus better results.
Also consider your dogs before we aerate your yard. We suggest marking your invisible dog fence, cleaning up after your dogs, and putting the dogs in a safe place during the aerating service.
After aerating, make sure to continue normal watering schedules until germination occurs. We recommend watering in the seed immediately after aerating services have been rendered. Once watered in, we usually try to squeeze in mowing the yard once or twice (the first 8-10 days the yard can still be mowed). Then we try to let the grass grow for the following two weeks to promote establishment. Once the yard starts getting tall around the end of that 4th week, we usually resume regular mowing practices until it is time to clean up leaves.
All that should really be expected at the end of the growing season is a bunch of small plugs all over the lawn. About 4 weeks after the growing season begins, the year following an aerating and over-seeding service, the little plugs should begin reaching maturity. If the plugs seem to remain small, chances are that soil compaction is preventing the soil from providing enough porous space to sustain a successful stand of grass. You may need to consider a Spring aeration service, without the over-seeding as well as Fall aerating and over-seeding.
Our professionals can consult you on the specific needs of your lawn. While aerating is the second best thing we can do for a lawn, aerating alone is not going to fix a neglected yard. Fall aerating and over-seeding combined with our full line of landscape maintenance services will significantly improve a neglected yard in just a year or two.
Click here to download our Aerating Your Lawn Handout for more information.