Fall aeration ranks high in terms of benefit to any home or commercial lawn for the money invested. Proper lawn aeration will remove one inch diameter cores to a depth of approximately two to three inches. Poor results may occur with dull or worn tines and very dry soil. This process physically removes a plug by running a hand operated machine over your lawn, much like mowing. Aeration removes thatch, soil, and grass plants in these plugs and deposits them on the surface of your lawn to decompose. A good aeration will allow air and water to infiltrate into the holes, allowing surrounding grass plants an opportunity to expand with decreased compaction. Aeration also allows for over seeding, a process in which hybrid grass blends are deposited into the core holes to germinate and fill in thin areas. Much like hair plugs in people, over seeding is a great way to change the actual grass composition of your lawn over time, improving its ability to withstand drought, insect, and disease issues.
Over seeding is not meant to establish a lawn in large bare spots or patches. However, if you top-dress with compost or loam along with aeration and over seeding, you can create a nice seedbed and accomplish three tasks at once during autumn. Fall is the best time to aerate and over seed because annual weeds are dying (the competition), soil is warm for faster germination, and moisture is generally adequate. Since the grass seed is deposited down into the holes, irrigation is not critical, but recommended for optimum results. Most soil types stay damp/moist at a depth of 2-3” so watering is not as important as surface seeding, but again, is recommended if possible.
With so much disease and chinch bug damage this past summer, aeration and over seeding could be your ticket to regaining and setting your lawn up for the spring of 2014. If you are planning on waiting until next spring for lawn repairs, consider the fact that you won’t be able to apply crabgrass or weed control and seed simultaneously in most situations. Also, take into account colder soil and later susceptibility to summer diseases and you are not obtaining the best value for your time and money with spring seeding. Spring aeration on its own is fine if done in the spring or fall. Although there are exceptions to these spring problems, fall is clearly the best time for aeration and over seeding. And after a tough summer, other wonderful fall treatments include lime, compost tea, fertilizer, and potassium.
If your kids are headed back to school, put aeration and over seeding on your “to do” list along with clothes and school supplies!