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It is important to know that all core aerations are not created equal. The type of machine you use will dictate how effective the core aeration is. A good machine will pull a 2 1/2 to 3 inch long plug every 3-4 inches even when the soil is extremely compact with a high percentage of clay (i.e. most NOVA soils). Direct drive core aerators are able to achieve these results where the more common drum type aerators fall short. Now, the list:

Relieve compaction – A compact soil has smaller pore spaces (the space between particles of soil). Water and nutrients are able to move through the soil via pore space (as well as oxygen and carbon dioxide). Common sense tells us that smaller pore spaces make this more difficult. Poor infiltration of moisture and fertilizer down to the grass roots generally results in a thin, weak lawn. Removing finger sized plugs of soil will quickly reduce soil compaction.

Root growth – Deep roots are a must for any healthy lawn. They tend to be stunted in a compact soil but within days of core aerating, you could look into the holes created and see tiny white roots poking out the sides. This new root growth will take the path of least resistance, continuing to grow down the core holes and out into surrounding soil. This further reduces compaction. Fun fact; grass roots continue to grow weeks after your lawn no longer needs mowing in the late fall.

Thatch management – Thatch is the build up in your lawn of partially decomposed roots, stems, etc on the soil surface. If allowed to accumulate too much, thatch can create a myriad of problems. In ancient times (way back when I first started in this business) it was a regular practice to ‘dethatch’ a lawn. Mechanically ripping out the thatch using a power rake or, God forbid, a rake rake. Core aeration allows oxygen to easily penetrate the thatch layer stimulating microbial growth. Elevated temperatures further aide the growth of microbes which, in turn, decompose the thatch. Translation…coring early in the fall or mid to late spring will get better thatch reduction due to higher temps.

Seed bed preparation – Over seeding a thin lawn after core aeration will greatly improve germination when compared to just over seeding. In addition to the seeds falling in the holes created, the soil plugs left on the surface will break down providing extra seed soil contact which helps improve the percentage of grass seed that comes up. In our area, seeding is best done in the fall

Make everything else work better – I know this one sounds a little wishy washy but it’s true. For all of the reasons above, just about everything you do to try and improve your lawn… feeding, weed control, applying lime, watering… all will be more effective with timely core aeration.

Only one more thing to consider… timing. There are several factors (soil acidity, low phosphate levels, poor fertility, time of year) that could make your results less then spectacular. Unless your core aeration is plugged in (get it?… plugged?) as part of an overall plan, you’re just poking holes.

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