There's so much more to a great yard than just mowing the lawn.

Drought Tip #2- Great Time to Aerate

The result of core aerating a lawn in spring

The result of core aerating a lawn in spring

What is core aeration?

Landscapers use core aeration machines to keep lawn and turfgrass areas thick and vigorous. As they run the machine over an area, the machine’s tines pull cores of grass and soil out of the lawn and deposit them on the soil surface. You can tell an area has been aerated when it appears to have lots of holes punched in it.

How do you do it?

You can either hire someone to core aerate your lawn or you can do it yourself. You can hire a lawn care company, landscape maintenance company or individual for a reasonable price. Make sure you ask them to go over the area twice to make lots of holes. This is one task I routinely hire someone else to perform.

Most homeowners who core aerate their own lawns rent a machine. You can rent an aerator at a home improvement store or local equipment rental company. If you also aerate a few neighbors’ lawns in addition to your own, the rental price can be very reasonable—around $50 for a couple of hours.

Keep in mind you’ll need a truck or other large vehicle to transport the machine, plus sufficient strength to operate it. If you do it yourself, you can arrange to rent a machine after your assigned watering day, which will result in deeper cores and better results.

What are the benefits?

Homeowners who regularly core aerate their lawns have thicker, greener grass. Why? Here are the reasons:

  • The holes allow water to penetrate down into the soil. Thatch can create a water repellent layer. Punching holes through the thatch layer helps water reach the grass’ roots. This prevents water from running off your lawn into the gutter.
  • The holes increase the level of oxygen in the soil. More oxygen means deeper roots. Deeper roots help your grass be more drought tolerant, which will be very important this year with water restrictions.
  • Core aeration reduces soil compaction. The soil beneath lawns, because they experience traffic, can become compacted over time. If you don’t aerate regularly, you’ll notice your lawn becoming tired and less vigorous. Aeration can help rejuvenate it.
  • Aeration machines cut roots and rhizomes. This stimulates the grass to grow and fill in, which leads to a thicker, denser lawn.

When is a good time to do it?

Along Colorado’s Front Range, it’s a great idea to core aerate in spring and fall. Since most of the Front Range is under mandatory water restrictions, core aerate early this year, preferably between now and April 30. Since the soil might be drier than when you normally core aerate, you might notice shorter cores. That’s okay. It’s still worth the effort and money.

Because core aeration injures the grass somewhat, it’s a good idea to aerate when it’s actively growing so it can recover rapidly. That means aerate after the grass has greened up. Don’t wait too long or the weather will get too warm. Aerating when the weather is hot causes greater injury to the grass.

What should you do with the cores?

Although the cores are not all that attractive, there is a benefit to leaving them to break down on the lawn. As they break apart, the soil falls down into the spongy thatch layer of the lawn. The soil and microbes help to reduce the thatch layer over time, which is beneficial to your lawn. You want to keep the thatch layer under control.

I usually leave the cores for about a week. I go over them with my lawn mower when they’re dry, which helps them break apart quicker. Then I rake up what’s left and put it in my compost pile. The holes will close up in 1-2 weeks.

Despite water restrictions, core aeration is a great way to help your lawn be more resilient this year. Go ahead and tackle this project in the next few weeks, and you’ll be rewarded with healthier grass this summer.


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