CORE AERATION is one of the “dirty words” of turfgrass maintenance. Clients often will say “..but everything looks so good, why do you want to make a dirty mess by plugging all those holes everywhere?” Aeration is an essential tool that we use in managing the landscape and if we didn’t perform this practice we would not be able to achieve the standards that we do.
If you think of turf in an agricultural sense, it has a number of unique characteristics that set it apart from other more traditional crops. Turf is an extremely dense perennial cover which limits our access to the soil. Most other crops are established and harvested on an annual cycle, allowing soil problems to be addressed in any number of ways. In turf, we only have this luxury during the initial establishment period or during renovation. Another significant difference is that the product of turf management is not yield as it is in forage or other commodity crops. Rather, the product in turf, particularly with fine turf, is its ‘quality’, defined by attributes like color, density and uniformity. As a result the natural tendency is to disturb this surface as little as possible. A third difference in turf relative to other crops is the amount of compaction it is constantly subjected to from maintenance equipment and foot traffic. In some areas of a property these forces are greatly concentrated resulting in very high levels of surface hardness. Soil compaction results in a set of conditions including reductions in aeration, water infiltration and storage and restricted rooting which, when combined, reduce turf health and quality. A final difference with intensely managed turf relative to other crops is its tendency to produce a zone or layer of organic material between the soil surface and the canopy that we refer to as thatch. Think of thatch like cholesterol, some is ok but too much will compound many other related issues. The good news is that all of these unique conditions can be addressed in one way or another by aerifying, making it an essential management tool.
We have two times of the year that we utilize this practice in the landscape. For warm season turfgrasses, like bermuda or zoysia, we core aerify turf in June. For cool season turfgrass, like tall fescue, we will core aerify in conjunction with our fall interseeding operations in late August and into early September. These periods in the year represent the best window of opportunity to promote healthy growth for each category of turf. Although these operations can be somewhat disruptive than are essential to help us deliver the results that we are all striving to achieve. Thanks for your understanding!