Posts Tagged ‘thin lawn’

Brown lawn? Look to aerate this fall.

Core aeration is a mechanical process that extracts cores of soil, thatch and grass from the surface of the lawn.  This increases nutrient availability, water penetration, soil air exchange, and reduces compaction.  All of these benefits lead to a healthier lawn.

Aeration can be done any time of the year, but typically it is done in the spring and or fall when soil moisture is greatest to insure good plugs.  In addition, any lawn can be over seeded after aeration in order to add hybrid grasses to help thicken up an existing lawn or thin areas.  Aeration is a great process and should be done annually to help maintain good soil health while minimizing compaction.

Core aeration should not be confused with dethatching or power rakes, a different machine which tears and rips turf- often causing more damage than good.  Aeration is a professional means to manage a turf area that is often under care such as fertilizer and lime treatments.

What are the benefits of Aeration?

-      Increased moisture penetration since the holes open up space for rain to reach the root system below.  The surface of the soil is hardened from high heat and summer drought.  A lack of rain makes the surface of the lawn much harder to loosen up due to the baking action of summer heat. 

-      Increased oxygen exchange (important for healthy roots) especially in compacted and dry soils.  Punching holes in the lawn will physically allow air to reach into the surrounding root systems, even as the hole begins to break down and fill back in with soil next spring.

-      Reduces soil compaction (especially soils high in clay) caused by those summer parties or high use.  Compacted soil does not promote healthy roots in grass or trees for that matter.

-      Increases penetration of fertilizers and other lawn products due to the holes being made.  The pellets or flakes simply roll into the plug and dissolve for faster results.

-      Increases rate of thatch decomposition due to micro-organisms being brought up to the surface in the plug itself.  There is no need to rake aeration plugs off a home lawn as they breakdown on their own in a short period of time.

-      Increases root development due to the vacant space created by the aerator tine.  The turf roots can expand outward and beyond in search of water, air, and nutrients in the soil.

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Think Aeration & Overseeding this fall

 

 

 

 

Why aerate in the fall and why overseed?

Aeration can be done almost anytime with the spring and the fall being the best time periods.  The main reason fall takes an edge over spring is due to a few important facts.  First, the soil is already warm from the summer so seed will germinate much faster compared to the spring.  Second, annual weeds like crabgrass or spurge have completed their life cycles and are on the way out (dying) instead of growing larger.  The reduced competition is most helpful to young turf plants which don’t have to compete for air, light, moisture, and nutrients in the fall.  Most lawns will benefit from additional seeding, whether in existing established turf or thinner lawn areas.  Overseeding is not designed to create a lawn in bare areas but add to existing lawn regardless of the condition (great to thin).  The primary reason to overseed your lawn after aeration would be to introduce a superior grade grass into the lawn.  A perfect overseeding example would be where the kids play or an area that dries out frequently.  Adding a drought tolerant turf such as tall fescue is a wonderful tactic to add new grass and upgrade the lawn area while not undertaking a costly renovation.  In most situations, working with the existing lawn is a faster and more economical position than starting from scratch.  Since turf usually takes a hit in summer heat, being proactive for the next year is critical since the window of opportunity only comes twice a year!

What is thatch?

Thatch is defined as living and non-living “stuff” lying between the upper turf blades and the soil.  A thatch layer between 0-1/2” is considered healthy but one approaching 1” or greater resists water absorption like a dry sponge.  Excessive thatch also encourages many types of insects and disease issues.  Aeration is also useful for reducing compaction in clay or heavily used lawn areas.  Aeration may seem simple enough, but it is a very labor intensive process- especially when using our heavy, commercial grade machines.  While you may be able to rent a small aerator, a large benefit derived from a larger unit provides deeper hole, especially in compacted soil.  If you do decide to rent an aerator- be sure the tine tips are not worn down.  Aeration is especially beneficial when followed by over seeding to thicken and add improved grass varieties.

Commercial grade aerators physically remove plugs from your lawn which improves water, moisture, and nutrient absorption into the soil while enhancing root growth and thatch decomposition.  Dethatching machines slice the lawn creating large volumes of plant debris and can often cause extensive damage if not used properly.  Aeration is recommended on all lawns on a yearly basis while dethatching is only left to the most mature, thick lawns with a thatch near 1” as a renovating process.

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Crabgrass in your lawn

Published by JKeefe on July 21st, 2010 - in Crabgrass, Lawn Care Companies

There are many factors which yield a high crabgrass population in any given lawn area.  Last season, we had one of the wettest seasons in nearly a decade while this year we are in one of the hottest in nearly a decade.  The two extremes are just that- extreme and there are ramifications to a lawn.  To understand what happens in a lawn setting we must look at the weather, turf density, mowing height, and treatments.  Hot and especially dry weather will cause dormant crabgrass seed to germinate- typically in bare areas first (along roads, walkways, driveways) followed by thin sections in the lawn.  Crabgrass loves high heat and low moisture.  Seeds can remain dormant for years until the right conditions arrive, and then they germinate.  Normal rain, proper fertilization, and cutting height can usually minimize crabgrass in primary lawn areas.  Grass that has been treated with high soluble fertilizers and is not as healthy will be more susceptible to crabgrass infiltration.  The best defense is still a thick lawn, a high cut, irrigation if possible, and slow release fertilizer among other applications.  Some years are above or below average in terms of rainfall and heat- key factors in crabgrass germination.

Crabgrass plant

One year of crabgrass does not undo a lawn.  A pre-emergent barrier can be applied in the spring, but even that will degrade by late July or early August.  Luckily, crabgrass knows when the remaining growing season is insufficient to complete its life cycle.  Said another way, crabgrass seeds will usually not germinate past mid July.  So what you see now is going to be it- the plants will just become larger.  Again, a pre-emergent barrier can be used to help suppress, not eliminate crabgrass in thin or weak areas.  Most of these products are simply dyes and are not harmful in terms of the environment.  A pre-emergent product can be applied this fall (often overlooked) or next spring if you belive crabgrass has gotten a firm foothold in your lawn.  There is a trade off between putting down a barrier and seeding- so give this treatment careful consideration.  When desirable turf becomes stressed by high heat and drought, it provides an ideal growing environment for crabgrass by heating up the soil.  Lack of moisture further stresses desirable turf and enhances the ability of crabgrass to grow at exponential rates- real fast.

Mowing at 3”, mulching clippings, watering (1” per week), and a solid lawn health care program are all great defensive measures.  Adding a pre-emergent in the spring is another tool to help inhibit crabgrass but not eliminate it.  In a normal year, things would be in check and balance like in nature.  However, in extreme heat and drought- nature will win the battle and aesthetics will suffer- regardless of the plans in place.

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