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What is Core Aeration?

Core aeration is the removal of small cores of soil from a lawn.

The Benefits of Aeration

Core aeration helps the lawn’s health and vigor, and reduces maintenance requirements by:

The type of aeration equipment used influences the benefits obtained from aeration. Penetration depth depends on soil type, soil moisture, tine diameter, and the weight and power of the aerator. In general, turf responds best when core holes are close and deep.

Why Aeration is Necessary

The soil in Northern Virginia tends to have a high clay content which causes it to compact easily. In new homes, the problem is compounded when topsoil is removed and not reapplied, which leaves subsoil that is more compact, higher in clay content, and even less desirable for healthy lawn growth. Core aeration is needed to improve the depth and extent of turfgrass rooting, optimize fertilizer and water use, and relieve compaction. Intensively used lawns are exposed to stress from traffic injury. Walking, playing, and mowing are forms of traffic that compact soil and stress lawns. Also, most lawns are subject to thatch accumulation. If thatch is left unmanaged it can lead to serious maintenance and pest problems. Core aeration reduces thatch accumulation and modifies its makeup by incorporating soil and oxygen into the thatch. When the thatch breaks down, it adds much-needed organic material to the soil.

When to Aerate

Both Spring and Fall are ideal times to aerate cool-season turfgrasses that are often found in Northern Virginia. In most cases, spring aeration is performed March through May. Fall aeration is done in late Summer and Fall, usually beginning at the end of August through to October. Aeration before or at the time of Fall fertilization enhances root growth responses and improves Spring “green up” and growth.

What to Expect

Immediately after aeration, your lawn will be dotted with small plugs pulled from the soil. Within 2-3 weeks, these plugs of thatch and soil break apart and disappear into the lawn. About 7 to 10 days after aeration, the aerification holes will be filled with white, actively growing roots. These roots are a sign that the turfgrass is responding to the additional oxygen, moisture and nutrients in the soil from the aeration process. You shouldn’t, however, expect miracles from a single aeration. Remember that the most effective aerations are done in concert with other necessary lawn services (soil testing, lime application, proper feeding, and weed control). Most lawns benefit from annual aeration. Lawns that receive this care will be healthier, more vigorous, easier to maintain, and will have fewer pest problems than lawns that are neglected.

Image by GuipozjimOwn work, CC BY 3.0,

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