Lawns around our houses, businesses, churches, hospitals or lawns that are used for sporting events, playgrounds or parks are not natural systems. Therefore, they need to be maintained in order to grow and stay healthy. Lawns that are not properly maintained are thin and usually full of weeds (not just dandelions). By caring for your lawn and ensuring it is growing well, you are making a big difference environmentally such as:
- Reducing pollution
- Preventing floods
- Providing oxygen
Your lawn is a GREAT thing.
The turfgrass varieties planted for lawns are great, but they are susceptible to more stresses than in their natural environment. Most of these turfgrasses are not native to North America, but were brought here from Europe, Africa or Asia. The soil preparation for the new grass, whether it is sod, seed or springs, is usually not that good. These grasses are expected to perform not under the best growing conditions. That is why they need fertilizer, pest control products and other mechanical processes to help them adapt to their environment.
One of the best things that can help any lawn is to core aerate it by using a machine called a core aerator. Nowadays, there are many styles of core aerators including walk-behind models, ones that are pulled by a small tractor and there are even ones that are a stand-on type. Most homeowners have their lawn care or maintenance company perform this work, but many hardware or rental stores carry small walk-behind models as well. Core aerators weigh several hundred pounds and a pick-up truck is the best way to transport them.
When a core aeration machine travels across a lawn, it removes small cores or plugs of soil and deposits them back on top of the ground. This opens up the lawn for more air, water and nutrients to penetrate into the root zone and allows for better root growth. Having a good root system is important for growing a healthy turf.
Besides providing better root growth, core aeration helps reduce thatch levels as well. Thatch is a layer of roots, rhizomes and other organic material that builds up at the soil line. Thatch acts like a sponge and absorbs much of the water and nutrients applied to a lawn, which is where many of the roots will grow. A sponge will quickly dry out in the sun and so will a thatch layer. It is also a home for insects, diseases and weed seeds. Core aeration will help to mitigate these problems. The cores that remain on top of the lawn will slowly break down through normal mowing and watering. The microorganisms in the soil will intermingle with the thatch and begin to decompose it naturally. Thatch can take years to build up to detrimental levels, so one aeration will not be enough. It may be necessary to aerate twice a year – spring and fall.
The best time to core aerate a lawn is when the roots are actively growing. For warm-season grasses, the roots are most active after the lawn comes out of dormancy in the spring. Therefore, aerate in April through June. For cool-season grasses, the most root growth occurs in the fall so therefore the fall is an optimum time to aerate. Roots are active in the spring as well, so aerating in the spring can also be completed. A lawn can be aerated at any time of the year as long it is moist enough to allow the tines to enter the soil, however the lawn may not benefit as much if it is aerated when the roots are active.
Cool-season turfgrasses can benefit from annual overseeding. The best time to do this is in the late summer to early fall. Core aeration prior to overseeding provides a place for the seed to be in contact with the soil and allows for better germination. Just about every cool season turfgrass lawn will benefit from an annual overseeding.
Besides fertilizing, one of the best things you can do for your lawn is to core aerate it. It is the only process that physically changes the structure of your lawn. Be kind to your lawn and have it aerated.
Have questions about the maintenance for your lawn or want to get started with core aeration and oeverseeding for your lawn? Contact your neighborhood Spring-Green for more information.