Of all the beneficial things you could do to ensure a healthy, beautiful lawn, core aeration is second only to fertilization. By disrupting the surface of the lawn and the soil beneath it, core aeration allows more air, water, and nutrients to reach the turf’s root zone. This in turn encourages better lawn root development below the surface and—you guessed it—healthier, thicker, greener plant growth above. Compacted soils are loosened, restrictive layers of surface-level thatch are broken, and your turf uses these improvements to its natural advantage, growing stronger and healthier as the surface repairs itself.
Virtually all U.S. regions and all common turfgrasses can benefit from regular aeration. What differs somewhat is the timing. According to information provided by Bayer Advanced, the best time to aerate a lawn is prior to a period of vigorous growth, during which the lawn can best recover from the disruption intentionally created by the aeration process. For cool season grasses, that time is late summer into early fall, making sure to allow at least a month of growing time before the threat of frost sets in. For warm season grassses, late spring to early summer is your best bet.
DIY (Do It Yourself) Core Aeration
Is core aeration worth it for your lawn? Yes, absolutely! Is it worth doing it yourself? Let’s weigh the options of do-it-yourself (DIY) aeration versus having the work done by a professional lawn care service.
No matter who does it, the work is performed using a specialized core aeration machine. This is a powerful and somewhat heavy motorized device that drives hollow tines several inches into the ground, extracts plugs of soil and plant material, and then deposits them on the surface as it moves forward. The desired result is a visible pattern of holes in the ground and plugs laying on the turf. Over time, the holes will be filled in with loosened soil, new roots, and grass plants, while the plugs break down and assist in the decomposition of the thatch layer that builds up on the soil surface.
This would be a piece of cake if the machine did all the work and the operator merely had to throw a switch on or off, but such is not the case. The machine operator controls where the machine goes, taking special care to avoid damage to irrigation heads, pavement features, flower beds, children’s toys, and other common obstacles. The operator must also determine whether soil conditions are favorable before commencing the operation. The key concern here is moisture. Soggy soil will clog the tines whereas overly dry soil will be difficult at best to penetrate. Aerating during a prolonged period of drought or excessive heat may do more harm than good.
The application of additional grass seed to an existing lawn, sometimes called overseeding or reseeding, is best done immediately following core aeration of a lawn. Fertilizer applications are also more effective at this time. This is because the openings caused by the aeration process make it easier for the new seed and/or nutrients to penetrate the soil. Obviously the individual applying these materials must know what to apply and at what rate.
Better To Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?
So which provides the better value for core aeration, DIY or using a professional lawn care service? Consider the following.
● Who will transport the core aeration machine to and from your property?
● Who will determine whether conditions are favorable to aerate your lawn?
● Who will ensure the safe and effective operation of the core aeration machine?
● Who will be responsible for any damage incurred to properly identified obstacles?
● If applicable. who will be responsible for properly overseeding/reseeding your lawn?
● If applicable. who will be responsible for properly fertilizing the lawn after aeration is completed?
When properly performed, under favorable conditions and at the appropriate time, core aeration will most assuredly benefit your lawn, whether you do it yourself or bring in a lawn care professional. With that said, if you have questions or concerns about core aeration or any aspect of caring for your lawn, please do not hesitate to contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. We have a wealth of professional lawn care experience to share with you.