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Aeration is physically breaking up the soil. This can be done in a number of ways, the most common being the use of a mechanical aerator, commonly called a “plug” or core” aerator. They work by simply poking a hole into the soil, a few inches deep. The core or plug aerator will pull a small plug of soil out, leaving it on the surface. These can be picked up, but it is best to just leave them there. They’ll break down on their own.
There are many benefits to aeration. The simplest way to explain it is, it’s like changing the oil in your vehicle. Soil naturally compacts due to human and motorized traffic (mowers, cars, feet, etc.), simple gravity, water pulling particles with it as it percolates through, and others.
Water and nutrients cannot penetrate the soil, so they can’t get to the roots of the plant. When you water or fertilize, far too much of it will simply wash away. This wastes water and product, which wastes money. Plus it may end up in a storm drain, and eventually our rivers, lakes, and oceans.
The plants can’t grow! Roots, stolons, and rhizomes from the grass plant need space to move around so the plant can grow and reproduce. They can’t get a good hold, and will spend all of their energy simply trying to root, without accomplishing anything.
The soil can’t breathe. There is a whole world of critters living in your soil. Fungi, protozoa, worms, and countless other microbes are all living and breathing down there. Like us, they produce waste products, just like we do when we exhale. If these waste products can’t escape due to compaction, they will build up, killing off the beneficial organisms needed to keep the “soil engine” running smoothly. The organisms themselves will help aerify the soil, so by keeping them happy, they will do their jobs that much better. Biologically weak or dead soils tend to be naturally compacted, so the cycle of compacted soil keeps getting worse.
All of these lead to thin, weak turf. This will cause weeds to take over, make the grass more susceptible to diseases and insect infestations. You want your grass to look good, and grass growing in hard, compacted turf doesn’t look good at all.
Again, why aerate?? Because it’s the cheapest, easiest, simplest way to keep your soil healthy. And, the best defense against weeds, disease, and insects, is healthy turf.
Well, the smart alec answer is, when the plant needs it. For a lawn, most grass needs about 1” of rainfall or equivalent per week. Some can go longer, depending on grass variety, soil type, soil compaction, sun, humidity. A couple of good, deep, watering cycles per week should do it.
Any time but at night. Wet grass blades overnight can lead to diseases. Ideally, water just at sun up. This will wash off any disease pathogens that may have formed with the dew, and also allow the water to soak into the soil before the heat of the day helps it evaporate.
Totally untrue. If you’re wilting from the hot sun, so is your grass. Golf courses water during the prime sunshine hours all the time. It’s the least efficient time, due to evaporation, but it will cool off the grass, preventing heat stress.
One rule of thumb: It’s better to water deeply and infrequently than water a little bit every day. If your grass needs 1” of rainfall a week, run your system 3 times a week to put out roughly 1/3” per cycle. How do you measure this? Place empty tuna fish or cat food cans on the lawn and run your system. Measure how much is in the cans and adjust timing accordingly.
Too much water can be just as bad as not enough. Soil should be moist, not constantly wet. This can lead to poor root depth (the roots will actually recoil, trying to find air. Yes, they can drown), diseases, and lots of other problems. An hour or three after watering, take a shovel, drive it into the grass, and look at the soil. Don’t worry, just step on the disturbed grass to push it back down after and it will be fine. Is the soil moist? How deep is the moisture? The deeper the better.
Good for you. It is our most precious and most wasted resource. First, follow the deep and infrequent watering rule. Keep your soil healthy. Keep pH in normal ranges.
Maybe add some organic matter. Did it rain yesterday? Is it raining out right now? Then why are you watering? Have a rain sensor added to your system. This will override the system if no watering is needed. Already have one? If it’s more than 5 years old it might need to be replaced. Is the weather man calling for thunderstorms tonight? Run your system for a quick “syringe” cycle. This will soften the soil a bit so the quick torrential rain will be more likely to soak in rather than just running off. Is your system running properly? Does that head way out back leak, or maybe the spray pattern is off? Might need to adjust or replace the head.
Switching to drip irrigation for your flower and shrub beds will save LOT of water, and make your plants healthier at the same time.
Well, could be a number of reasons.
Mowing height? Do you mow at 1 ½” and the Jones’ lawn guy mows at the proper 3-4”? Mowing short is bad bad bad for the home lawn. It will dry out faster. The turf will be thinner as a result. Weeds will have more sunlight when they germinate so they’ll grow faster. The roots will be shorter. The longer the blade, the longer the root (usually). Some lawn chemicals break down under sunlight. They’re fine under a 3” tuft of grass, but if it’s shorter…
Soil pH. Do the neighbors test their soil and lime regularly? Low soil pH can dramatically affect how your turf looks. Proper pH means better microbial activity, nutrient uptake, and can affect soil compaction. Many key nutrients can be bound up in the soil, unavailable to the plant, if it’s too acidic. You can be wasting as much as HALF the fertilizer you apply. The grass simply can’t get at it. How do you fix it? Test the soil. Fix what’s broken. Odds are very good your pH is low.
Soil compaction. Soil compaction is probably the #1 enemy of turf. The roots just cannot penetrate. Neither can water. Or fertilizer. It will just run over the top and into the storm drain or neighbors yard. Also, the soil can’t breathe. There’s a lot going on in your soil. Millions of bacteria and protozoa, miles of fungi strands, worms by the score. All are living in your soil, doing their thing. If the soil can’t breathe, neither can they. And they’ll die or move on to greener pastures. How do you fix it? Several ways. Best and easiest is to aerate regularly. An aerator will poke holes in your soil, pulling out small plugs. This will alleviate the compaction quickly and effectively. This is also a great time to add some organic matter. Spread some compost, add a good organic fertilizer. The plugs will go away on their own. Regular aeration is just good preventive maintenance for your soil, just like an oil change for your car. Maintaining organic matter levels will naturally ease compaction. Earth worms will help too with their burrowing. Organic matter can be added via compost and compost tea, organic fertilizers, or simply by leaving the clippings when you mow. Maintaining your pH will help keep the “engine” running smoothly too.