While there may be may things which may solely or combined be behind your lawn’s health problems, soil compaction may at the root (no pun intended). When the top 4 inches of the soil layer become compressed the movement of air, water and nutrients to the root system is hampered. Compacted soil can contribute to the accumulation of thatch, stress turf making it more susceptible to pests, weeds and disease if left unchecked, eventually lead to serious maintenance problems. Fortunately there is a cultural practice that can immeasurably aid turf grass reverse this process and recover from soil compaction; (core) aeration.
The process of core aeration involves using a machine which employs hollow tines, these punch holes in the ground and remove small cores (cylindrical volumes of soil). The timing of your lawn’s core aeration will depend on the type of grass your lawn in composed of and its health needs. If you do not already have a core aeration in your lawn program your arborist will determine when it will be ideal to do so, if necessary. There are other options to add to your core aeration, re-seeding could beneficial at this time, or perhaps your lawn needs a double core, again, your arborist will assess your lawn’s needs and recommend the most advantageous treatment.
Numerous benefits can be received from relieving soil compaction through core aeration, these include;
Improved air flow– Enhanced oxygenation of the soil results from loosing soil particles will help stimulate root growth. Beneficial microorganisms residing in the soil also require sufficient oxygen levels to properly function and procreate. Aeration also allows for gases to be exchanged with the environment more effectively; helping to release carbon dioxide and absorb oxygen.
Improved water infiltration– Aeration will help break up thatch and compacted soil, disrupting any crust that may have formed which results in higher permeability of lawn. Water can infiltrate into soil easier and faster, reducing runoff or puddling and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of irrigation.
Thatch management– Typically built up from layers of residual plant matter; stolons, rhizomes and other tissue which accumulates faster than microbes can break it down. Improving soil conditions by introducing more oxygen and breaking up thatch masses allowing microbes to function effectively and stimulating grass plants to regrow more densely.
Increased microbial activity– As noted above, soil microbial activity is very important to the maintenance of healthy turfgrass; microbes break down dead plant matter, nutrient cycling and some even aid roots in acquiring nutrients. A healthy microbial population requires sufficient oxygen and water penetration, both of which are improved through aeration of the soil.
Root system access– Your lawn is a perennial system normally maintained in stasis with little disturbance throughout the year, core aeration may provide unique direct access to the root system. The benefits of this access are targeted applications of fertilizer, lime or other soiled amendments which may benefit your turf grass. Seeding following an aeration is sometimes more effective due to the direct seed to soil contact.
The benefits of a core aeration are numerous, however, it is also a fairly disruptive event and should be carried out only when you and your arborist have decided it can be the most beneficial with the least detriment to the system and aesthetic value of your lawn. Fall aeration time is just around the corner, so speak to your arborist now if you think your landscape may benefit from this process.