If you listened to GardenLine last weekend, you know that my neighbors and I did the annual core aeration for our lawns.
I needed it more than anyone on the block this year, mainly because I did such a poor job of removing the thatch in February or March. Only 4-5 days after the aeration, however, I saw a dramatic improvement in my lawn. Couple that with pictures I've been receiving from listeners over the past few weeks, and I now have the ultimate reason to hammer home the importance of core aeration, especially after the January freeze.
The picture to the left shows an example of a lawn that is so compacted and in such dire need of improved soil, the first thing the owner should do is get a core aeration.
I dug up an old tip sheet covering all aspects of aeration and included it below. If your lawn doesn't look like what you're used to seeing this spring, the January freeze is partly to blame. To get back to normal, you need to improve the soil, and that starts with aeration.
(Originally published 2-28-08)
I have determined that:
1. All aeration is good.
2. Some methods are ultimately better than others.
3. There are different levels of financial commitment.
So, let me break it down into three categories.
1. Liquid aeration
2. Spike aeration (Manual)
2. Core aeration (Machine)
Liquid aeration involves using liquid organics or chemicals to loosen the hardpan soil so water and nutrients will percolate further into it. Medina Soil Activator, Molasses, Water-In, Liquid Aerify and other applications fall into this category. Be careful though, because there are many liquid aeration products available online that are not very cost-effective. If you have to spend $75 for product to treat 1,500 square feet, that's a problem.
Spike aeration involves simply poking holes in the ground manually. You can do this with a tree root feeder, a piece of steel re-bar, or those funky shoes with spikes on the bottom. These methods are best for people with very small yards and are more cost-effective for people who may have trouble getting a core aeration machine into the area. You should be warned that the shoes with spikes don't really help St. Augustine yards, mainly because it's nearly impossible to walk across a thick stand of St. Augustine in them without tripping every other step. If you had a Zoysia- or Bermuda-type grass, the shoes might be okay.
The best method for aeration, by far, is a core aeration. Machine aerators are becoming more and more advanced. Still, nothing can beat the standard core-aeration machines that lawn services use and that you can rent from home-improvement stores. And, there are core aerators you can buy to hook on the back of tractors and riding lawn mowers.
There's also the DryJect method, but they are only used to do golf courses and sports fields these days.
Here's a summary of aeration methods available to you:
LIQUID AERATION/SOIL ACTIVATORSHere are some FAQs. If your question isn't covered, please call in during the GardenLine broadcast or send me an e-mail.
How often do I aerate?
That depends on how bad the condition of your soil. Once a year is a good starting point. Really unhealthy soil could use it twice a year until things get better. Really healthy soil can be done every other year.
When's the best time to aerate?
Anytime! The best times are right before the spring fertilization and right before the winterizing treatment, but just do it whenever you get a chance. Try to do it just before you make any of the applications recommended in my fertilization schedule.
Which method do you prefer?
I have always been partial to core aeration, because I've seen the results. The liquid ones just don't get as far into our clay soils.
Do you have a preference of soil amendment to go down after the aeration?
I do not. They are all good, so it just doesn't matter as long as you do it.
What's the most cost-effective way?
Rent a core aerator from a home improvement store and split the cost with neighbors. (Neighbor Steve, Neighbor Fred and I have been doing this for years.) But if you have a very small yard (like a courtyard) or an area that would be difficult to get a machine into, liquid or manual aerations would be more cost-effective and logical. Finally, the word is "aer·a·tion" (ār'a-'shun). It is not air-e-a-shun. This is a pet peeve of mine, but now you know.
Buchanan's Native Plants, 611 East 11th St. in The Heights
We will be hanging out 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, courtesy of our friends at Lady Bug Natural. Buchanan's carries a full line of Lady Bug products, and we will have several to give away. Show me a May 1 receipt from Buchanan's, especially if you purchased anything "native" or "organic," and we will hook you up with some free Lady Bug goodies. Or, print a copy of this tip sheet and bring it to me for a chance to snag something from our supply of Nelson Plant Food and various other goodies. Also, producer Kurt Grabenstein is planning on being there. He lives in The Heights area, so we thought this was a perfect opportunity for you to meet the man you always talk to first when calling into the show.
and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, exclusively on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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