KC Gardens

Time to core aerate

Core aeration

Tip of the Week

For the most part, area lawns survived another Kansas City summer. Hot, dry; cool and wet; we had it all this summer. This fall has been on the dry side, which is slowing their recovery from the ever-changing weather. September is the most important time of the year for bluegrass and tall fescue lawns. One of the best fall cultural practices is core aeration.

Core aeration helps prevent problems and increases the overall vigor of the turf. Aeration is the mechanical removal of soil from the ground. These plugs are about the size of a finger.

The removal of these plugs of soil allows for several things to happen within the soil root zone. Once removed, the clay soil can naturally expand, which helps to reduce the effects of compaction. Compacted soils are one of the main problems with area lawns. Compaction reduces rooting depths, which increases heat and drought stress.

In addition to reducing compaction, aeration also encourages the movement of water and nutrients into the soil. These openings soon fill in but increase the movement of water and fertilizers.

Aeration is one of the best ways to help control the buildup of thatch in a lawn. Thatch is an accumulation of dead grass stems, roots and runners. A little thatch is fine in a lawn, but if an inch or more builds up then the lawn can experience a number of problems.

These are the reasons aeration is one of the most important cultural practices to perform each year. Tall fescue and bluegrass lawns should be aerated on an annual basis for maximum benefits. The timeframe is anytime during September and October. Zoysia will also benefit from aeration, but at a different time. This warm season grass is best aerated in late May or early June, just after green up.

When aerating, make sure there is good soil moisture so that the tines which remove the soil can penetrate our heavy clay. Plugs of soil should be pulled about every 3 inches for maximum benefit. This normally requires two passes with the core aerator machine.

Core aerators can be rented from many garden centers, hardware stores or rental agencies. Also, several neighbors can go together and share the cost and energy needed to aerate. Take advantage of the nice fall days and aerate your lawn, as it will benefit greatly from this highly recommended practice.

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