Like all plants, the turfgrass that comprises your lawn needs to breathe. However, soil can compact during any summer, but especially when it’s hot and dry. When this happens, the space between soil particles, called pores, shrinks. The result is less room for the oxygen and water plant roots need.
Grass plants are very demanding, and their roots don’t like to push through compacted soil in search for these necessities. Weeds, on the other hand, are tough. They just barrel through, taking up what little oxygen and water that’s available.
You can help your grass get its fair share of oxygen and water by aerating. Aerating’s a procedure that makes holes in the turf so the soil particles can spread out, creating more pores. An aerated lawn looks like someone walked over it in golf shoes. In fact, some people have mowed their lawns in golf shoe under the mistaken assumption that they’re completing two tasks in one. However, the spikes on golf shoes aren’t long enough or thick enough to really aerate.
Aerating is done with a special machine that looks something like a big, power lawnmower at first glance. It won’t take long for you to realize that it’s more than a mower. An aerator has hollow tines that punch good size holes in the turf and deposits “plugs” of soil on the ground. The plugs should be left there to decompose and return organic matter to the soil. Although the lawn is unsightly at first, the plugs decompose quickly.
Lawn aeration can be a do-it-yourself project. You can rent machines at equipment rental stores, but you need to transport them to and from the store, and they’re heavy. Aerators weigh considerably more than a lawn mower and can be difficult for you to maneuver before you get the hang of it. Most DIYers I know do it only once. When you add up all the costs plus your time, I think you’ll find that you’re not saving much, if anything, over having it done by our lawn care professionals.
Some believe that aerating and dethatching must be done at the same time. Usually that’s not the case. Contrary to what you may have been told, thatch isn’t grass clippings. It’s dead grass plants. While aerating is needed often in clay soil like we have, dethatching is only needed when there’s a build-up of dead grass plants. This occurs seldom to never in most lawns.
Dethatching is also done with a specialized mower-like machine. Whole lawns only have to be dethatched when there’s dead grass among green plants. If patches fail to green up after summer dormancy, you can easily rake that dead grass out with an iron rake. After you rake out the dead grass, small patches should fill in from adjacent healthy grass. Larger patches will require reseeding.
Our lawn care professionals can advise you on whether your lawn needs aerating, dethatching, neither or both. Even though we’re into summer, you can start a professional lawn care program now that will keep your green carpet healthy through fall and prepare it to survive winter.