In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
April, 2011
Regional Report

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3762

A core aerator removes one-inch by three-inch long plugs from lawn.

Breathing New Life into Lawns

That soothing patch of lush, green lawn I see when I step outdoors onto my patio is admittedly the most labor-intensive part of my landscape, but one I especially enjoy and appreciate. Over the years I've whittled down the size of my lawn, but it's still an integral part of my outdoor oasis and I rely on it to tie my landscape plantings together. Grass helps cool the environment, reduces noise, prevents erosion and filters the water that helps recharge groundwater supplies.

For an emerald green lawn you need to mow, water, and fertilize regularly. But if this routine maintenance does not produce the desired lush, green carpet, the soil may be compacted. Soils become compacted over time as rainwater and water from your sprinklers provide opportunities for the soil particles to move closer together. Heavy foot traffic can lead to faster compaction. Compacted soil prevents the roots of your turf from receiving the benefits of the water and fertilizer you apply. A solution to this problem is mechanical aeration of your lawn.

Give Roots a Little Breathing Room
Loosening the soil at and below the root level will provide breathing room for the roots of your grass giving them better access to air, water and fertilizer. This will result in a greener, more luxuriant lawn.

The best way to aerate your lawn is to rent a core aerator at a local equipment rental store. It should take less than an hour to aerate an average sized lawn with a power aerator so you may want to arrange to share with your neighbors and split the cost of renting the equipment. A core aerator is about the size of a rototiller and has hollow tines or spoons mounted on a disk or drum. A core aerator extracts one-half to three-quarter inch diameter cores of soil and deposits them on the lawn. Aeration holes are typically about three inches deep and spaced 2-6 inches apart.

How to Aerate
You can aerate your lawn any time with good results, provided the ground is not frozen. I choose to do the job in the spring months when the grass is actively growing. It quickly recovers from the treatment and by early summer becomes that lush, green carpet I crave to have underfoot.

Thoroughly water your lawn a day or two prior to aerating so the tines can penetrate deeply into the soil and the soil cores can easily fall out of the tines. The soil should be moist but not wet. Thorough watering means one inch of water from the sprinklers or from rainfall.

Aerate the lawn in at least two different directions to insure good coverage. Take extra care when running the equipment on slopes, as well as near sidewalks, driveways and landscape beds. Be sure to mark sprinkler heads, shallow lines from sprinklers, cables and wires, and septic lines before aerating so they will not be damaged. Leave the soil cores on the lawn surface. With each watering, the soil clinging to the plugs will wash back into the ground. Mowing will also reduce their size. As plant matter from the plugs is broken down by bacteria, it becomes an excellent food for your lawn. Once you've finished aerating you can spread a thin layer of compost or sand over the lawn and finish the job by overseeding the entire lawn.

Aerating every three to four years (more often if there's heavy foot traffic) will help your lawn retain its good health.


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