Whether you choose conventional lawn care products to treat your lawn, or prefer to follow a more natural, organic approach, a Fall lawn aeration is one of the most beneficial things you can do now in preparation for your Spring lawn. Core aeration is vital for healthy, lush turf grass. As suggested by the Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, in their article "Natural Organic Lawn Care",
"Well-documented research has been done on many practices that are an integral part of lawn care...[including] core aeration, [proper] mowing height and top-dressing with compost."
Fall is considered by many industry experts to be the best time for the aeration of cool season turf grasses like we have here in Ohio. The cool turf grass plants spend the Fall extending and enhancing their root development to sustain themselves through a long, cold Winter. Aeration removes plugs of soil, relieving soil compaction, exposing the remaining grass roots to more oxygen and extra water. Combining the cool season aeration with an overseeding and/or with the application of a slow release fertilizer will help "feed" the turf through winter weather and will ready it for new, thick growth come late Spring.
So, how do you know if you need a Fall core aeration? Typically, the best way to figure out your need is to pull core samples to check thatch depth and compaction layers. You should pull at least three inch plugs to get a clear picture of the situation. If you observe a thatch layer of more than one-half inch, aeration will be beneficial to help break down the excess thatch. So let's talk a little bit about thatch, and what you're looking for in this plug. Thatch is an organic (natural) layer that lays on top of the soil, and is composed of old grass roots, crowns (the top of the grass plant), decomposing leaves. A thatch layer greater than 1/2-inch thick may inhibit infiltration of water, air, and fertilizer, harbor insects, and create an environment that invites disease. Thatch is a problem most frequently found in heavily fertilized Kentucky bluegrass lawns. Fine fescue is also susceptible to thatch formation, but less so than Kentucky bluegrass, because its rhizomes are shorter. Soils with sufficient amounts of organic matter, beneficial microorganisms and earthworms slow thatch buildup.
Additionally, watering and weed growth can be valuable in determining the need for aeration. If water is pooling where it didn’t before, it could be due to compacted soil keeping water from infiltrating through the soil. Certain weeds such as goose grass, annual bluegrass or prostrate knotweed often inhabit compacted areas. In places without direct sunlight, moss and algae growth can be an indicator compacted soil.
New construction areas can often benefit from aeration. Construction equipment can compact the soil, and aeration helps make it easier for newly-laid sod to develop a solid root zone.
If a property has not been aerated in more than one year, you can safely assume that aeration will help alleviate any compaction that exists, and will help promote the growth of healthy, lush turf.
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