Landscape Techniques - Lawn Aeration Article by Henry Thompson Copyright © 2003 by ProGardenBiz ProGardenBiz, an online magazine http://www.progardenbiz.com
Aerate, in context of landscape and grounds maintenance, means "to supply soil with air". It is a contractor technique to aid in maintaining and improving lawns. Aeration improves lawn appearance, usability, and it's ability to absorb water from irrigation. Aeration is important for garden as well as lawn, but techniques for garden aeration are different than for lawns, and subject for another column.
An aerator is equipment that performs work and it's a machine every gardener and landscape maintenance contractor should own. If you perform lawn maintenance or renovate lawns you need an aerator. Aeration is a standard component of any grounds maintenance program. For seasonal work you can rent equipment. If you have a larger customer base you should consider adding an aerator to your contractor equipment. Landscape companies will generally find it more profitable to own equipment instead of renting.
First let's discuss need for aeration and benefits of a regular aeration program in landscape maintenance.
Grass roots need air as well as water and fertilizer. The grass can actually poison itself as a result of various chemical processes that occur in individual grass plants if grass roots do not have enough air. Soil that lacks sufficient air can result in; slow growth in affected grass, excess irrigation runoff due to poor permeability, shallow root systems, and a lawn that's highly susceptible to insects, disease, and heat damage.
Soil compaction is most common example of soil deficient in air. The growth habits of grass in compacted soil are shallow root development, a substantial decrease in number of grass plants per square foot, and an inability to properly use applied fertilizers.
Soil compaction in lawns is caused primarily by pedestrian traffic, whether it is children playing in a playground or people taking shortcuts across a lawn. Stopping use of affected lawns is generally impractical. A better solution would be frequent aeration and, depending upon composition of soil, application of lawn and garden amendments such as peat, sand, or gypsum.
The benefits of aeration are an increase in the:
- growth rate of grass thus an improvement in its ability to withstand and recover from pedestrian use - ability of water and fertilizer to penetrate to grass roots soil's absorption rate from irrigation - root growth activity contributing to strength and health of grass - ability of bacteria present in soil to break down and decompose thatch layer thus increasing soils ability to hold sufficient amounts of moisture between waterings - grass's ability to withstand low water situations and heat stress
Aeration is a technique best applied in late summer or early fall for cool season grasses and in spring for warm season grasses. This can also be a good time to overseed and topdress/ amend aerated lawn. One drawback to aeration is that it increases probability of weed infestation thus it can become important to include pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control measures. In addition to being beneficial to lawn, these services are an add-on profit center for landscape maintenance contractor. Aeration services are also often offered by garden centers and nursery businesses.